Philosophical Zombies

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
cynicallyinsane
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Philosophical Zombies

Post by cynicallyinsane »

How do we know that other people are actually conscious? How do we know that they aren't just mindless zombies who behave like they are conscious?
MyshiningOne
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Post by MyshiningOne »

If we were all zombies, then nothing we said or did would have any merit.
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
cynicallyinsane
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Post by cynicallyinsane »

Right, so how do we know other people have merit?
MyshiningOne
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Post by MyshiningOne »

I guess we really don't!
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
DanteAzrael
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Post by DanteAzrael »

You watch their actions...It is as simple as that. You question "What do their actions mean? What are they doing? WHY are they doing it?" Also, you pay attention to what they say...explicitly and implicitly.

Every conscious being is conscious. The only thing is...are they aware of it? or do they deny their consciousness?

To answer the question "How do we know they just don't act like their conscious?" ...You do those following steps...Zombies do not breathe...think...and all they do is moan and eat human flesh...That should be sufficent enough for you to know who is zombie or not :P
When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!" - Ayn Rand
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pjkeeley
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Post by pjkeeley »

How do we know that other people are actually conscious? How do we know that they aren't just mindless zombies who behave like they are conscious?
This question is about solipism, we talk about it in another thread.

There is no real answer. You can never know if anyone else is conscious besides you, you just have to believe it based on the evidence, as DanteAzrael said.
DanteAzrael
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Post by DanteAzrael »

Only difference is that...I believe you *can* know. Not just believe in the evidence.
When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!" - Ayn Rand
NSUSA
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Post by NSUSA »

I think we can figure out that other people are conscious by figuring out how consciousness works. Once we figure out what makes the brain conscious and how observable brain activity relates to consciousness, then we can know that people are conscious based on that. In analogy, I know what programs my computer is running by analyzing what is going on overall in the circuits (or by having another computer program analyze all that data for me).
Patrarch
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Post by Patrarch »

The problem of solipsism is unfortunately meaningless. Even if you can't prove that other consciousness exists, are you going to change anything in your life due to this fact? Try this. If you have a problem with the doubt that other minds exist, I want you to get up tomorrow morning and go to school or work or church or where ever. However, I want you to go completely naked. If it's possible that other minds don't actually exist, then it doesn't matter, right? Though I am quite certain nobody would actually do this. This skeptical possibility is not relevant. The way I see it, I agree, we can't know certain topics like this. But so what? It has no effect on anything else except for the thought experiment itself.
The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.
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coffeeprincess
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Post by coffeeprincess »

Exactly, Patrarch.

The point is, whether or not what seems real IS real doesn't matter as long as we behave as though it does. Which we do. :idea:
"I'm not down here for your money, I'm not down here for you love, I'm not down here for your love or money, I'm down here for your soul"

-Nick Cave "Deanna"
Simian
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Post by Simian »

Although not knowing wouldn't change the way I'd act, knowing certainly would. If I could distinguish between conscious creatures and mere zombies many ethical decisions would come a lot easier. Pork? No thanks, pigs are conscious. Chicken? Yes please, they're just zombies.
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coffeeprincess
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Post by coffeeprincess »

There is no distinguishing. You are trying to make excuses for things you feel, if only slightly, guilt for doing. What about plants? They grow.
What about fish?
This argument gets you nowhere.
We should just eat people and get it over with.
"I'm not down here for your money, I'm not down here for you love, I'm not down here for your love or money, I'm down here for your soul"

-Nick Cave "Deanna"
Simian
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Post by Simian »

Coffeeprincess,
I'd agree that there's no distinguishing in the strict philosophical sense. Just like there's no way of knowing whether I'm a brain in a vat, or if there's an external reality.
But people distinguish between conscious and non-conscious creatures all the time, if only intuitively, and many make ethical decisions on that basis. All I'm saying is that increased knowledge about consciousness can lead to better ethical decision-making (at least insofar as consciousness is relevant to ethics - it is for utilitarians, not so much for contract-theorists). This is already happening with brain function which, while not consciousness itself, seems to be closely correlated with it.

FWIW, I think consciousness arises from brain structure. Fish are probably conscious, plants probably aren't.
anarchyisbliss
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Post by anarchyisbliss »

maybe the definition of consciousness is zombiism
"If there is hope, it lies in the proles." - George Orwell, 1984
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pjkeeley
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Post by pjkeeley »

anarchyisbliss wrote:maybe the definition of consciousness is zombiism
...

What?

Explain.
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