Fresh AiR SciPhi - Youtube Show
Fresh AiR SciPhi - Youtube Show

Tonight Dave and Joe discuss the p-Zombies and Zimboes.

Chalmers’ argument

1) It is concevable that there are zombies
2) If it is conceivable that there are zombies, it is metaphysically possible that there are zombies.
3) If it is metaphysically possible that there are zombies, then consciousness is non-physical.
4) Consciousness is non-physical.

What is a p-Zombie

A p-Zombie is a being which is a physical duplicate of ourselves, but has no ‘qualia’. That is to say it has no ‘inner experience’. They are indistinguishable from ordinary human beings from the outside. We can take brainscans and see neural activity. The respond appropriately to questions, grab their shins when they bang them against a desk, dance when music plays, etc. However, they exist in a purely ‘functional’ way. They would appear conscious to us, but how would we know? Would the physical information alone tell us that they were conscious? Would our experience of them tell us they were conscious?

Are p-zombies conceivable?

For something to be conceivable it has to be clearly and coherently imaginable. We have to be able to form a coherent and detailed conception of it that is free from contradiction.

Does conceivability entail possibility?

Does being able to conceive of something mean that it is possible for it to exist? We have to remember that we are not just speaking of physically possible here, we are speaking of metaphysically possible too. So we are speaking not only of ‘actual world’ scenarios, but also of ‘possible world’ scenarios. Does being able to conceive of the possible world scenario mean that it is possible though? We can conceive of a world where water is made up of some different substance, and not H2O. Would the word water simply be a word being used to describe something else though, and not be water? After all, water is just H2O, it’s a word that we use to identify a particular property. So is it just that we can conceive of the word ‘water’ being used in a different way, but not actually conceive of water in a different way?

The brain as functional

Use Searle’s ‘Chinese Room’ argument here. Imagine a room where a person sits. In that room they have access to everything to do with the Mandarin language, and everything necessary in order to translate from Mandarin to English. They understand no Mandarin though, but due to all of the things available they can translate any phrase or character thrown at them. We have access to the person in this room through a slot on the door. Through this slot we push an envelope with what is to be translated, and the person in this room pushes out the translation in another envelope. From this we might assume that the agent inside has some kind of awareness or understanding of the Mandarin language. His role is purely functional though. A computer that passess the Turing Test is another example of this. This is gives us some indication that functionality does not entail phenomenal character.

Dennet and Zimboes

Dennet argues that p-zombies are misleading intuitions. The important part of the thought experiment is that they are supposed to behave just as we do, and have mental states that are functionally equivalent to ours. If our zombie twin was behaviourally different from us,then it would not be physically identical. It is easy to think of ‘zombies’ as lacking in some way though. This misimagination is what gives the p-zombie argument its strength. Instead, imagine beings called ‘Zimboes’. They have all the same complex information-processing capabilities as us, and these capabilities lead to the creation of an inner experience just like ours. This makes imagining p-zombies as sustaining the claim they are physical duplicates without inner experiences harder.

Conceivability and possibility

The water example again.

Pain as C-fibres. Chalmers argues that we can imagine zombies that have C-fibre stimulation, but without the conscious experience of pain. Physicalists argue that simply is the firing of C-fibres. We can imagine it is not, but just as water simply is H2O, so too is pain simply the firing of C-fibres.

However, there are other things we associate with terms like water and pain. Water can be referred to as ‘the drinkable stuff found in oceans’ and pain as ‘a sharp unpleasant feeling’. These phenomenological assocations are still things we associate with water and pain.

Papineau’s Jane

Imagine a woman that has come to know ‘Cicero’ and ‘Tully’ through two separate groups of friends. She does not know ‘Cicero’ and ‘Tully’ in person. She has only come to know them through discussions each of these groups have. Through these discussions, Jane has come to conceive of two different people. However, unbeknown to Jane, Tully is simply a nickname for ‘Cicero’ that one of the groups uses. So, while she has come to conceive of them as two different people, it is not possible for them to be two different people. Neither in the actual world or in any possible world. Implying that conceivability does not necessarily entail possibility.

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