[…] We begin with a topic that has greatly excited many philosophers: along with Dennett, we think it is a complete red herring. We mention it because you may well run into it, and deduce from the awe in which it seems to be held in some quarters that it is a serious contribution to the subject – which it is not. This is the concept of a “zombie“, which is exactly like a human in every respect except that it is not conscious. Zombies are thought experiments, often used to focus attention on the (alleged) ineffable quality of consciousness that is so different from the physicochemical activities of material brains. imagine a zombie, the argument goes. It functions just like a real human being, right down to the electrical activity of its brain cells – but you know it’s not conscious, because that’s how you imagine it. Conclusion: consciousness is different from the physical activity of a material brain. There are so many things wrong with this suggestion that it is hard to know where to start. The main one is that it’s a cheat. It’s a Silly Question in disguise, one of the “but what if you saw a ghost?” variety […] You might as well encourage people to imagine a zombike, which is exactly like a bicycle in every way except that it does not move when the pedals are pushed. Oh, mystic miracle of ineffable immateriality, the source of motion in a bicycle is not anything physical!
Inspired by a discussion on a mailing list, I dug up a copy of Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen’s Figments of Reality, to find the definition of the zombike.
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