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60. Todd Moody and p-Zombies

60. Todd Moody and p-Zombies

We’re back to philosophical Zombies for a second because frankly, I can’t let the darn things go. I promise you that the next two segments will be just filled with the slaughter of innocents and the rot of the newly revived. Before that, let’s look at Todd Moody’s argument, in a 1994 Journal of Consciousness Article on the existence of philosophical Zombies.

Read the excerpt our studies show that a full 12% of you will still be following by the end and will click through to see the rest. At which point the people at Imprint have promised to forward us the name of a Nigerian Prince who has a secret bank account th. . .

I’ve already said for too much, just read.

P.S. if you already know that the whole “philosophical Zombie” shtick isn’t your thing, just watch the video.

You know, you try to bring a little intellect into the discussion and this is what you get.

The `zombie problem’ is the problem of consciousness, stated in a particularly provocative way. Given any functional description of cognition, as detailed and complete as one can I magine, it will still make sense to suppose that there could be insentient beings that exemplify that description.

That is, it is possible that there could be a behaviourally indiscernible but insentient simulacrum of a human cognizer: a zombie. This is so because the best functional description can only map inputs onto behaviours by means of computations of some sort. That certain computations are associated with consciousness is at most a contingent fact about them. The problem is reiterated at the level of any possible physical description of cognition as well. In this case, the intervening processes between inputs and behaviour will be of a causal, rather than formal, sort.

Nevertheless, the link between those processes and consciousness is still contingent. As long as the link between publicly observable states of any sort and consciousness is contingent, zombies are a possibility. The zombie problem is a variation on the `other minds’ problem, but I hope to show that it is not an idle variation. It offers, I think, a vivid way of conceptualizing the philosophical questions about consciousness. Suppose there is a world much like our own, except for one detail: the people of this world are insentient.

They engage in complex behaviours very similar to ours, including speech, but these behaviours are not accompanied by conscious experience of any sort. I shall refer to these beings as zombies. This scenario, though surprising, is a possibility suggested by a theory recently referred to by Owen Flanagan as `conscious inessentialism’, which is defined as follows:

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