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The Supervenience of the Mind and the Human Zombie (Part 2)

By Edited Apr 7, 2016 0 0

To further begin my argument for materialism, I will be analyzing the nature of zombies as human beings perceive them through our rampant imaginations in films, comic books, mythic lore, and popular culture. In David Chalmers' article, "Can Consciousness Be Reductively Explained", he argues that there is a logical possibility that zombies could exist; as they are essentially like "lesser" and "unconscious" animals; however they have the same physical form as a human being.

"He (the zombie) is physically identical to me, and we may as well suppose that he is embedded in an identical environment. He will certainly be identical to me functionally: he will be processing the same sort of information, reacting in a similar way to inputs, with his internal configurations being modified appropriately and with indistinguishable behavior resulting. He will psychologically be identical to me. He will even be "conscious" in the functional senses described earlier - he will be awake, able to report the contents of his internal states, able to focus attention in various places, and so on. It is just that none of this functioning will be accompanied by any real conscious experience. There will be no phenomenal feel. There is nothing it is like to be a zombie." -  David Chalmers

The fear often associated with zombies in movies and other artistic mediums tend to stem from the fact that, if zombies would come to exist; it would make the most sense that they would spawn from our own species (the human being). The fear that some sort of plague or nuclear fallout would give rise to an enemy so familiar, but yet so different and terrifying is very sensible; and perhaps is a valid reason to examine zombies in a philosophical manner. Popular culture and movies have, specifically, engrained our minds with almost tangible images of zombies; often extremely mutilated and gored, though physically very similar to human beings.

While Hollywood and many other outlets have primarily portrayed zombies as, essentially, blood-thirsty, mythological monsters; Chalmers has envisioned what one may deem a "functional" zombie. A being that would be capable of coexisting with humans (instead of attempting to murder and eat them). To further, and perhaps leave, his point; I am interested in the nature of a zombie (a strictly physical being with no mental states or substances) in comparison to a human being (a strictly physical being with mental states). For all intent and purposes, zombies and human beings are one in the same; except when we examine the supervenience of the mind on the body as it relates to humans. Despite this relatively minor difference, the similarities between a human and a zombie are undeniable. My argument for materialism is then dependent on attempting to logically conclude that a human being and a zombie (both as described above) are equal, despite what I would deem a superficial difference (a supervenient mind).

For the sake of my argument, I will give an example where I will describe two different human beings. As one can observe in day-to-day life, the human species is very diverse in that each individual has numerous differences on multiple levels (from skin tone to genetic make-up). It would appear that these physical qualities are superficial when one is asked to describe the appearance and overall nature of a human being. For example, if two men are sitting in a room; one is African and the other a Caucasian, would we view each individual as separate species? Or in our examination of the men will we seemingly ignore the significant difference between the two: skin color. It would appear that skin color (as well as most other features of a human being) is also superficial, and what would define a being as a "human" is much more broad (perhaps, a general body shape (the Vitruvian Man?), bone structure as a fundamentally observable foundation, or even a specific neurological framework).

Assuming features of the body are superficial, and therefore are strictly dependent on other aspects of the body (there is no skin color without a bone structure, for instance); it would appear that a dependent mind would be equally superficial if it is exclusively dependent on a physical body. Without a mutually exclusive mind substance, mind states logically must depend on the physical body in the same way observable features (such as skin tone) are. If this is truly the case, then mental states appear to be nothing more than an anomaly, perhaps developed through evolutionary means.

To reexamine the zombie and the human being explained earlier, a zombie and a human both appear to be equal to one another; despite the human beings' mental states. This is due to "mental" states equaling physical states (identity theory). Logically, my argument would be as follows:

If mental states (A) equal physical states (B), then strictly physical zombies (B) must equal humans with mental states (AB). To further this logic by removing the variable "mental states", since I have concluded that mental states equal physical states, then: physical states (A) contain both zombies (B) and human beings (C).

Upon reaching this rather general conclusion, I feel it is important to backtrack and consider qualia (subjective experience) as it is a vital element that is frequently debated when considering the nature of the mind, and for those engaged in folk psychological thought processes, an element that may define one's "soul" in the afterlife. In truth, as far as my argument is concerned, subjective feels are of no significant value in similar fashion as mental states are of no significant value. It would appear that every "subjective" experience is simply programmed by nature. For example, I subjectively experience eating a piece of pie. I am able to utilize my physical senses, such as taste and smell, while I do this. The qualities of my personal experience eating the pie are merely sensory inputs, which I then am able to perceive and distinguish between. While there is subjective experience, it is limited to physical constructs (and perhaps mental states, though one could argue that beings with no mental states, such as a zombie or a dog, still may have subjective experiences; in that their experiences are different relative to another beings).

For a more in depth example of qualia as it fits into a functional materialistic view, consider the nature of a computer. It seems that the mind is essentially a compilation of "coding" on which we rely which allows us to function in such a way that appears to be free, yet without being completely free (separate from the physical body). Much like one can not run a video game without a video game console, or HTML code a website without a computer; the human animal may have a mind (a video game, HTML code) but its value and existence is solely dependent on its processor (the body, a video game console, a computer). It would seem that due to these dependency relationships, existence (and by extension, any other concept that requires a conscious, existent being to exist, such as freedom, beauty, and national pride) is very linear due to one being (or part of a being) needing to exist prior to another is even capable of existing.In strictly physical terms, one can examine the process of conception. I did not exist prior to being conceived by my parents, nor does my potential future son exist at the present time (even if he may come into existence in the future). Mental states exist in the same way. No one was developing video games for the Playstation 3 until the Playstation 3 (hardware) was developed. HTML coding was not being used until computers were invented, and any concept of HTML code was non-existent until computers were created. In a more broad sense, as it relates to the mind and body, the mind only comes into existence after the physical body is created.




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