Zombie Rights!

Zombies are were people too.

The Zombie Rights Argument
Premise 1. If zombies are possible, then I can’t know whether you have qualia.
Premise 2. Qualia are obligation-inducing.
Premise 3. If zombies are possible, then I can’t know whether I’m obligated to e.g. refrain from torturing you.
Premise 4. My obligations can’t be unknowable by me.
Conclusion. Zombies are not possible.

P1. All the evidence I have about you is exactly the same as the evidence I would gain from your zombie twin.
P2. Qualia, said Sellars, are what make life worth living. It is a good to have the pleasingness of pleasure and a harm to have it taken away. The painfulness of pain is what makes it a harm to be tortured.
P3. Seems to follow pretty straightforwardly from 1&2.
P4. Jason Zarri has a very nice post on this sort of thing. See his “Does moral realism entail moral verificationism?” where he discusses the following principle: “Necessarily, if someone has a duty to do something, it is possible for them to find out or discover that they have a duty to do it”

This sort of argument has probably been made before. References welcome.

BTW, some relevant discussion can be found in the comment thread of this post by Eric Schwitzgebel: [link].

8 Responses to “Zombie Rights!”

  1. Josh Weisberg says:

    Maybe we CAN know that other humans are not zombies–by way of a Ned Block-style local type identity. Of course, Block may run afoul of some version of the myth of the given, but he claims that science can justify an identity claim by accepting first-person claims about not being zombies and constant correlation. Likewise with Nagel on the right types of perspectives: I can know what it’s like if you’re enough like me, where ‘like me’ is maybe physical similarity.

    So you do have obligations to people, but maybe not to Robots, aliens, and non-human animals.

    On this, see Carruthers’ “THoughtless Brutes” and the debate around it (Rocco Genarro has a reply; Carruthers later recants.)

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    Great news, since I have some wicked plans for my robots.

  3. Anibal says:

    But what if robots, and non-human animals, display signs of sentient life. Premise 2 is law-abiding with respect to our considerations.

    Can robots have a conscience? review of Moral Mchines by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen.

  4. Pete Mandik says:

    There are two (main) sorts of adjustments that can be made to the Zombie Rights argument to guarantee its applicability to robots, Martians, etc. The first sort of adjustment involves tweaks to the definition of “zombie”. The second involves changes of who the “you” referred to is.

    (1) “Zombie” can mean alternately (zombie-p) a phenomenally vacant being physically identical to me, (zombie-f) a phenomenally vacant being functionally identical to me, (zombie-b) a phenomenally vacant being behaviorally identical to me.

    (2) You, who are not me, might be another human, or a functionally isomorphic robot, or a (relevantly) behaviorally identical non-human organism of Terran or non-Terran origin.

  5. Josh Weisberg says:

    >Great news, since I have some wicked plans for my robots.

    Sounds kinda kinky…

    Maybe qualia are not what make life living. Instead, functional states (of the right kind) are what make life worth living.

    You are now free to torture all the functionless qualia-bundles you can lay your twisted hands on. Enjoy!

  6. Josh Weisberg says:

    *oops: life WORTH living

  7. Jeff Engelhardt says:

    Doesn’t P2 have to be that qualia are *necessary* and sufficient for the obligations this argument is supposed to turn on? As stated–that qualia, I take it, are just sufficient to induce certain obligations–there could be other discoverable reasons, independent of the qualia question, that induce obligations to the zombie. I don’t know much about the sorts of things that induce obligations, but it seems plausible that I have obligations to a number of qualia-less things: my local government, unborn future generations, the mighty dead. ”the painfulness of pain is what makes it a harm to be tortured” might do this work, especially if you make it clear that it’s just this one obligation that you’re talking about (you need only one, I assume). Could you post something in support of that? It’s not just the pain that induces an obligation, I’d guess; maybe it’s a harm if it’s horrific to the victim’s family, if it undermines her authority with her kids, etc. I believe you can handle all of this, I just want to see it. Would you post it?

  8. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the remarks!

    I think it is probably true that there are obligations that don’t have to do with qualia, at least not directly. (For example, there are plenty of immoral things that are possible to inflict on a generally anesthetized patient.) But what’s crucial for the argument is there are at least some qualia that do relate to obligations. If there were a drug that made unpleasant experiences way more unpleasant, or pleasant experiences way less pleasant, people would be obligated not to slip it into each other’s drinks. Of course, there are other, non-qualia, factors in play as well, like whether there’s been consent, etc. We might summarize and say that there are some qualia that, in combination with other non-qualiative factors, suffice to bring it about that certain obligations are owed, and further, the qualia are individually necessary conditions on the obligations being owed. So, if the qualia were absent either different or no obligations would be owed.

    From here the rest of ZR argument should proceed pretty much as advertised. If qualia are nonphysical, then I couldn’t tell a situation in which I had such-and-such obligations from an evidentially identical situation in which I lacked such-and-such obligations…and so on.

    Let me know if the above addresses the sorts of worries you meant to raise.