Re: Conscious of the hard problem

Timothy Bates (
Sat, 26 Jun 1999 20:04:38 +1000

Emlyn <> wrote
> Something has been nagging at me. Most opinions seem to suggest here that,
> if consciousness exists at all, it doesn't have a real purpose, in that you
> could create a simulated intelligence which was exactly as functional, but
> withOUT consciousness.
> This doesn't sit right with me, and I'm not yet clear on why.

If it does not sit with you, then you are a functionalist. You argue that if it has all of the functions of a human mind, then it will also be conscious.

There are a whole range of "man-is-special" philosophers who just hate this idea. their argument essentially boils down to the zombie (they have an infinite range of variants on this theme such as "the swamp brain" and "Mary blind physicist", but they are all similar to the zombie argument.)

This says that you could build which was in-principle indistinguishable from a conscious human, yet was a zombie.

Dennett's retort to this oh-so-handy escapism is to note that a zombie would not only have our behaviours, but also our sensations, and perceptions, and our emotions - "its" sole difference from us is that it wouldn't be conscious of these feelings. As far as Dennett (and me too) are concerned, this kind of seeing, thinking, feeling, unconscious zombie is just fine and in fact lacks nothing: that is once you define consciousness as something which can be absent in the presence of a thought, you have defined it as a nonentity. I am convinced that thinking is intrinsically conscious activity and therefore do not believe in zombies.