In this, the third of installment of this series, I further unpack the Transcending Zombies Argument.
Recall that the argument runs as follows:
P1. If I know that I am not a zombie, then phenomenal character is (a certain kind of) conceptualized egocentric content.
P2. I know that I am not a zombie.
P3. Phenomenal character is (a certain kind of) conceptualized egocentric content.
P4. Fixing my physical properties fixes my conceptualized egocentric contents.
C. Fixing my physical properties fixes my phenomenal properties.
I devote the rest of this post to a discussion and defense of P2. First, I note that there are two potential ways one might contemplate undermining P2 and we can introduce these potential ways via two different ways of applying emphases in the statement of P2. The first way of distributing emphases is “I know that I am not a zombie” and the second is “I know that I am not a zombie”.
The first way of distributing emphases invites contemplation of potential defeaters that would suggest that whatever things I might know about myself, that I’m not a zombie doesn’t count among them. The second way of distributing emphases invites contemplation of potential defeaters that would suggest that regardless of whether I know that someone or other is not a zombie, I cannot know that I am not a zombie. These points about the two distinct ways of construing P2 will also be useful in understanding P3.
I intend P2 to be equivalent to a claim of certainty regarding my current state, namely that I am certain that I currently have states with phenomenal character. Thus, what is known is known with certainty. Further, what is known with certainty here concerns current states of affairs. Such certainty is unlikely to attach to claims about my past and future states—my memory may be unreliable and there’s little about the future of which I can be certain.
While claims along the lines of P2 have been defended in the recent literature (Horgan & Kriegel, 2007; Lynch, 2006), I will here assume it and point out that it is an assumption that my dualist opponents will readily grant. Further, it is an assumption that they will need to grant. If the claims of first-person knowledge of non-zombie-hood are denied, then this puts dualists at a serious disadvantage concerning the current debate. If they find themselves denying that they know that they have qualitative states, then it is difficult to see how they could have any basis whatsoever to complain that proposed reductions are not, as Chalmers (1996, p. xiii) puts it “taking consciousness seriously”. Chalmers’s accusations that the reductionist is not explaining consciousness but, instead, illicitly redefining it to swap a hard problem for an easy one are (the accusations) predicated on Chalmers knowing what consciousness is in virtue of a first-personal acquaintance that is not mediated by grasping any description or definition of consciousness. As is developed at greater length in Mandik and Weisberg (2008), if Chalmers and other dualists are not in a special position to know that they have conscious states, they aren’t in any position to claim that the reductionists are actually changing the topic.
In the next post I’ll discuss P1.