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Kevin Tran

Phil 1

John Caravello

3 March 2014

Paper

In this paper, I will argue that the first part of the Zombie Argument presented in

lecture is false. I will begin with a brief introduction to the notion of mental states, which

will be vital for the rest of the paper. I will then introduce and analyze the first part of the

zombie argument, premise by premise. This will include my personal interpretation of the

argument, whether the argument is valid, and the justification for the premises of the

argument. I will then disprove part one of the zombie argument by challenging the truth

of the first premise, while defending the truth of the second premise.

Mental states are subjective conscious states that humans experience. Examples

include emotions, memories, beliefs, and desires. An important distinction to make is that

there are two parts to a mental state, the physical and phenomenal. The physical aspect

refers to the explicit and traceable path by which these states occur. Suppose you stub

your toe. The physical event leading you to stub your toe elicits a response that is

messaged to your brain. Your brain tells you that this experience is painful and that you

need to cry to relieve the pain. In other words, the physical aspect of a mental state is the

bodily functions your brain goes through with your body. Although the physical aspect of

an individuals mind is physically traceable through the brain, the phenomenal aspect of

the mind is a subjective experience that cannot be tracked and measured in the same way.

The phenomenal aspect describes how a certain mental state feels relative to the
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individual; I have a clear feeling of what pain feels like that may be different to how

others perceive it. This subjective consciousness is what ultimately characterizes mental

states. With this brief explanation on the notion of mental states, I will now present the

part one of the zombie argument from lecture.

1Z. I can conceive of a situation where my body exists but has no capacity for

mental states.

2Z. If I can conceive of something, then it is logically possible

3Z. So it is logically possible for my body to exist without having the capacity for

mental states.

Premise one of the fist part of the zombie argument is saying that through the

deep reaches of our imagination, we can conceive of a scenario where the physical body

exists without the ability for mental states. Premise two refers to the concept of how

conceivability entails logical possibility. The conclusion ultimately states that it is

logically possible for my body to exist without having mental states through the notion of

conceivability entailing logical possibility presented in premise two, and through the

conceivable situation presented in premise one. This argument is valid because it follows

the basic argument form Modus Ponens. Premise two serves as the conditional claim, If

I can conceive of something (a conceivable situation where my body exists but has no

capacity for mental states), then it is logically possible (a logically possible situation

where my body exists without having the capacity for mental states). Premise one serves

as the antecedent of premise twos conditional claim, I can conceive of a situation where

by body exists but has no capacity for mental states. Assuming that these two premises

are true, it can logically be followed that it is logically possible for my body to exist
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without having the capacity for mental states. I will now justify each of the premises by

expanding on the notion of conceivability entailing logical possibility, and describing a

situation in which our bodies exist without mental states.

Conceivability refers to the idea that a certain situation or thing is conceivable if

upon deep reflection no errors in logic can be found. If we cannot find any logical

inconsistencies, then a given situation or thing is to be considered conceivable. Logical

possibility refers to the idea that something is logically possible if it does not violate the

rules of logic. These rules of logic include criteria such as conceptual coherency and non-

contradiction. For example, a triangle cannot have four sides; that is conceptually

impossible. Additionally, it cannot be the case that it is raining and it is not raining at the

same time, that is contradictory. Ultimately, conceivability and logical possibility share

the same features of not violating the same rules of logic, and so if you can conceive of

something, it is logical. Given these definitions for conceivability and logically

possibility, the truths of these definitions serve to justify premise two. We now move on

to the proposed justification for premise one and the conclusion.

The conceivable and logical scenarios presented in the zombie argument in

premise one, and the conclusion refers to a hypothetical world physically

indistinguishable from our own called the zombie world. Within this hypothetical world

exists a duplicate version of us, a zombie. These zombies are physically identical to us,

and furthermore it can replicate the same behaviors as us. If I tell a really bad joke, my

zombie counterpart will laugh hysterically at it, while other zombies will cringe and look

away at my said bad joke. These zombies act identically to how we would act, however

they lack the capacity for mental states. Specifically, there is an explicit physical
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occurrence going on in the mind of the zombie that tells it to laugh or cringe at the sound

of a bad joke given specific stimuli, but there is no phenomenal subjective feeling of joy

or remorse followed by it. The behavior expressed from the zombies mind would be

classified as purely physical, and not phenomenal. Although the zombies can process the

physical aspect of mental states, they are void of the phenomenal aspect, resulting in the

inability to actually process mental states. Given the characteristics of this zombie world,

it can be said that in this world, physical bodies exist without the ability to process mental

states; the zombie world scenario ultimately justifies premise one. Furthermore, our

justification for the conclusion stems from the truth of our conceptual definition

regarding conceivability entailing logical possibility (premise 1), and the truth of a

conceived world where our bodies exist without the capabilities for mental states

(premise 2). Although a valid argument, and apparently justified, I do not believe the

premises to be justified.

Premise one states that through the zombie world scenario, I can conceive of a

situation where my body exists (as a zombie imitating mental states) without the capacity

for actual mental states. However, there is logical contradiction in regards to how a

zombie possesses the capabilities to elicit the physical aspect without also eliciting the

phenomenal aspect, and a problem of conceptual incoherence in regards to ideal

conceivability. According to the definition of a zombies method for imitating a human,

the zombie imitates a mental states physical aspect, and elicits an outward behavior that

is in line with the imitation, relative to the situation. Under this assumption, zombies are

conceivable; I can conceive of a world where there are zombies that act just like humans.

However, imitating the physical aspect of mental states is not as simple as it seems.
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Imitating a humans physical aspect of a mental state consists of a wide array of factors

and mechanisms that require some sort of link from physical aspect to the phenomenal.

Having the capability of experiencing the physical aspect of mental states entails the

necessity of experiencing its phenomenal counterpart from which it is derived. Suppose

that a zombie is laughing. Proponents of the argument would argue that the reasoning

behind his laughter would be because it is imitating the physical aspect of what happens

when being told a joke. However, it cannot be the case that the reason for its response

would be so simple. In order to elicit a laugh, it would have to understand why it should

laugh. It would need to understand the subjective feeling of happiness as a pleasure that is

expressed through laughter, and in order to identify a stimulus as eliciting happiness, it

would have to understand what happiness is. By understanding what happiness is, the

zombie can feel it, and as a result, has the capacity to understand the phenomenal aspect

of mental states. Although there is no clear empirical evidence for the relationship

between the physical and the phenomenal aspects of the mind, the matter of the fact is

that there must be some sort of link between them. And so, in the case of zombies, in

order to imitate the physical component of mental states, it must be able to experience the

phenomenal aspect as well, resulting in the existence of both physical and phenomenal

mental states. This creates a logical contradiction, a zombie that has the capacity for

mental states, ultimately going against the original notion of a zombie, a physically

identical creature that does not have the capacity for mental states. As a result, premise

one must be false.

Premise one is also false on the grounds that it is not conceptually coherent with

the definition of ideal conceivability. Prima facie conceivability refers to a proposition


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being conceivable on the face of it, meaning given our immediate resources and

immediate knowledge, there seems to be nothing inconceivable about it. However, upon

close inspection with more knowledge, prima facie conceivability could result in some

logical problem. Ideal conceivability refers to the idea that under ideal conditions, given

unlimited knowledge and perfect logic, there would be no logical problems. According to

the two definitions of conceivability presented in lecture, zombies can be prima facie

conceivable, but cannot be considered ideally conceivable. Given our pool of knowledge

and understanding behind the rules of logic, zombies are prima facie conceivable.

Currently, we do not possess enough empirical knowledge to fully understand how the

mind and body interact, and we do not have a means of linking the physical aspect of our

minds to the phenomenal. However, given ample time, we may one day obtain the

capabilities to do so, resulting in the falseness of ideally conceivable zombies.

The truth of premise 2, If I can conceive of something, then it is logically

possible. The justification for the truth of premise two can be derived from conceptual

definitions regarding prima facie conceivability, and ideal conceivability as stated in the

paragraphs above. A proponent of conceivability not entailing logical possibility could

make the argument that certain types of conceivability, for example prima facie, do not

entail logical possibility, but they are wrong in doing so. They are wrong in doing so not

because prima facie conceivability obviously does not entail logical possibility; they are

attacking the wrong concept. They would have to argue against ideal conceivability not

entailing logical possibility and the only way for them to do that, would be to deny the

conceptual definition of ideal conceivability, or come up with a scenario where an ideally

conceivable situation is not logically possible. Ultimately, although premise two is true,
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the falseness of premise one entails that the conclusion be false, resulting in the entire

argument being false.