Archive for the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ Category

Zombie Rights!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

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].

Jane Austen Ate My Brain

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Proud. Prejudiced. Undead.

This is just about the best damn thing ever.
So far.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! (Paperback) [Amazon Link]

Hat tip to: The Hodg-Man

Zombies Zombies Zombies Zombies Zombies

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Zombies Zombies. Also: Zombies.

Re Your Brains

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Jonathan CoultonRe Your Brains

Zombie Roundup Roundup

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Here’s a roundup of recent blogospheric zombie roundups: Siris’s, my mind on books’s, and my own.

My $.02 on zombiology: either we know that we’re not zombies or we don’t know that we’re not zombies. If we know that we’re not zombies, then physicalism is true (see “Transcending Zombies“). If we don’t know that we’re not zombies, then physicalism is true (see “Type-Q Materialism“).


Presentations Presented Presently

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Numbers of people (more than one) have asked for the following, perhaps because they are students in a class soon to be examined on the topics contained within. Others may be interested as well. Below are PowerPoint slides for talks closely associated with Chapter 5 & 6 of The Subjective Brain.

Transcending Zombies [link to download]

Phenomenal Consciousness and the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface [link to download]

Just the Phacts, Ma’am.

Monday, September 24th, 2007


Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik

Eric Schwitzgebel and I have been having an interesting (to us, at least) exchange in the comments on his recent post “Three Reasons to Mistrust Reports about Ongoing Conscious Experience“. At issue in our exchange are questions concerning introspective reliability concerning phenomenological facts or “phacts” as I called them. Eric is somewhat famous now for his many interesting arguments against introspective reliability. I tend to side with people who think that there are important senses in which introspective judgments can’t be wrong.

An interesting case, and one that Eric raises, concerns people’s judgments about the nature of their visual field. More specifically, people tend to vary over times and across subjects in their judgments concerning how much of the visual field is clear. The determinate colors and shapes of peripherally presented objects cannot be seen clearly. But people vary in their opinions about whether this is so.

Key question: do people vary in their accuracy of judgments of the phacts of the matter? That is, do some but not all of them get the phacts right?

The answer to the key question depends, of course, on what the phacts are. And one possibility that needs to be dealt with is that the variation in judgments is matched by a corresponding variation in phacts. On an extreme version of this possibility, everyone is right, they’re just right about different phacts.

One way to characterize resistance to this possibility is as interposing a third realm between a first realm constituted by objective facts concerning stimuli and sensory receptors and a second realm constituted by various conceptualized reactions to stimuli. Supplying a third realm gives something for items in the second realm to be mistaken about yet, unlike items in the first realm, look like candidates for genuine phenomenology. A lot of what Eric claims people to be mistaken about look to me to not be mistakes about phenomenology, but instead mistakes about what’s going on in the first realm (or mistakes about relations between the first and second realms).

Worries about a third realm can be put by saying that we really have no idea what sorts of denizens would populate it. In the case of the visual field, third-realm denizens would include peripheral objects that are colored and shaped but have no determinate color and no determinate shape. Do we really understand the suggestion that there can be such objects? And aside from questions about what objects would be, there are the various questions that arise about where they would be. No one’s ever found anything like that in anyone’s brains, and the items that populate our external environments certainly don’t fit the description.

It’s not enough to motivate the postulation of the third realm to say that we already know what it is, that it’s whatever makes it the case that there’s something it’s like to be conscious. Nor is it enough to counter skeptical resistance by characterizing that resistance as requiring reductive definitions. Reductive definitions are beside the point at this stage in the game, we just want something informative to “what are you talking about?” kinds of questions. No one has a reductive definition of a duvet, but could probably say something more informative about duvets beyond “if ya gotta ask, ya ain’t ever gonna know” kinds of responses.

The most pressing challenge for friends of the third realm is to say something informative about it such that it would be something separate from the second realm. This is because the second realm seems to be best suited for handling the sorts of weird indeterminacies that arise for phacts – indeterminacies like being indeterminately colored or having an indeterminate number of speckles.

See also:
[How do you know that you know what you are talking about when you talk about qualia?]
[Transcending Zombies]

The Anti-Zombie Argument

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Phenomenally Vacant

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik

Keith Frankish, posting on the Splintered Mind, summarizes very interesting Anti-Zombie Argument as follows:

Consider anti-zombies. These are beings that are physical duplicates of humans, and that have no non-physical properties, but which are nonetheless conscious. They inhabit an anti-zombie world, which is a physical duplicate of ours, but where no non-physical properties are instantiated. (Physicalists think that we are anti-zombies, of course.) Then we can run an anti-zombie argument for physicalism, as follows. Anti-zombies are conceivable and therefore, by the CP principle, metaphysically possible. And if anti-zombies are metaphysically possible, then physicalism is true. The last step may seem a big one, but it should be uncontroversial. In the anti-zombie world consciousness is physical, so the microphysical features of that world are metaphysically sufficient for consciousness, and any world with the same microphysical features will have the same distribution of phenomenal properties. But, by definition, our world has the same microphysical features as the anti-zombie world. Hence the microphysical features of our world are metaphysically sufficient for the existence of consciousness, which is to say that physicalism is true.

Here’s an excerpt of a response I left:

Consider a version of zombism that doesn’t seem touched by your argument. I don’t believe it, and I don’t know anyone who does, but it is worth considering.

On this version of zombism, consciousness is massively multiply realized. In some worlds—Berkeleyan ghost worlds—there are no physical properties, only consciousnesses. In those worlds, my mental doppleganger is realized by networks of non-physical ectoplasmic psychons, or spook-juice, or something. In other worlds—Cartesian fractured worlds—there exist both minds and bodies, and like the ghost worlds, conscious stuff is realized by non-physical spook-juice. In other worlds—anti-zombic worlds—consciousness is realized by solely physical stuff. In other worlds—zombic worlds–there’s all the same physical stuff as in the anti-zombic worlds, but absolutely no consciousness, perhaps because of different laws that operate there, or something.

So, I guess this imagined zombist would deny your statement that “any world with the same microphysical features will have the same distribution of phenomenal properties.”

I suppose you’ll need some reason why such a move wouldn’t be available to the zombist. What is it?

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

If you know that you are not a zombie, then phenomenal character is conceptual and inverted spectra (color qualia being inverted relative to your conceptualizations) are impossible.

Regarding the supposition that you know that you are not a zombie, I interpret this as meaning that you know that you now have states with phenomenal character or qualia. It is useful to compare this kind of knowledge to more ordinary cases of knowing that something is the case. Take for example, my knowing that there is a dog in the room. In order for me to know this, there must be some set of properties that the dog has and that I am able to conceptualize. I can be relatively neutral on exactly which conceptualizations will get the job done. Maybe my conceptualization is that there’s a four-legged furry barker in the room. Maybe my conceptualization is that there’s a domesticated wolf-descendant in the room. Maybe my conceptualization is simply that there’s a dog in the room. But however it goes, there must be some set of properties of the dog (e.g. being domesticated, being wolfish) and I must have some set of concepts adequate for the accurate representation of those properties (e.g. the concept of domestication, the concept of wolves).

Now, my knowledge that I now have states with phenomenal character is seldom if ever analogous to the case in which I simply conceive of the dog as a dog. I am not now simply conceiving of myself as having phenomenal states. There are specific phenomenal states that I conceive myself as having. As I type this note and take breaks to sip coffee there’s a whole slew of qualia that I conceive my states as having. In particular, I conceive myself as seeing my coffee mug as being blue. I have a blue quale and am able to conceptualize it as such. I reject, then, the statement that there is no absolute correct orientation of the color spectrum. I think there is. It involves conceptualizing a blue quale as blue and a yellow quale as yellow and so forth.

Now, if qualia are distinct from my conceptualizations, as they would need to be if inverted spectra are possible, then it would be theoretically possible for my qualia to become inverted without my noticing. My quale that I currently conceptualize as blue would actually be yellow and vice versa. My current conceptualization as having a blue quale would be false, then. And it would be false without my noticing. Further, if qualia are distinct from my conceptualizations, I could have all the same conceptualizations without having any qualia at all, and my belief that I’m not a zombie would be false. If it’s possible for my belief that I’m not a zombie to be false, then I can’t know that I’m not a zombie. Thus does self-knowledge of non-zombie-hood lead to the impossibility of inverted spectra.


The Transcending Zombies Picture Show

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Below are the slides for the talk based on the chapter available here: link.