Chalmers and zombies

Damien Broderick (
Sat, 14 Jun 1997 13:01:24 +0000

At 12:30 PM 6/13/97 -0700, Hal wrote:

>I don't believe in zombies. The idea that someone can behave just like
>a human being, argue passionately that he *is* conscious, that he does
>have internal experiences, that he loves life and treasures every moment
>of his existence, while actually (I guess) lying about this, is incoherent.
>You ought to read some of the philosophical arguments against the existence
>of zombies. David Chalmers has some good stuff on his web page. (I don't
>agree with Chalmers on some issues, but his arguments against zombies are

I've just finished reading Dave Chalmer's book The Conscious Mind, which
left me wondering exactly *what* he *is* saying... but I think you've got
it turned around, Hal. Chalmers' argument for the singular and unreductive
character of consciousness is based firmly on the feasibility of
counterfactual possible worlds which are replete with zombies. These
critters are identical with us down the quantal level, but lack the
supervenience of consciousness and hence lack `experience' and `qualia' -
even though they claim to have them (being perfect behavioural emulations
of conscious people). Certainly Dave argues against *us* being zombies -
he rejects the John Clark model, in other words - but his whole argument
hangs on the modal possibility that a zombie world *is* intelligible. I
don't think it is, in rather the way I don't think it's genuinely possible
to ask the hoary old question `why is there anything rather than nothing?'
I don't think we *can* conceive of the absence of literally *everything*,
just of the absence of certain structures. The rest is just words,
free-floating and (in such cases) delusive signifiers.

Damien Broderick