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Philosophical Zombies
Posted 2/23/08 , edited 2/24/08
By this I do not mean people who argue philosophy like zombies, but rather how do you know that everyone else possesses consciousness (awareness, not moral conscience)?

"A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "Ouch!" and so forth), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does." (Wikipedia)

So, in other words, I happen to be in this body (my body) looking out on the world, and I see other human bodies walking around and talking similar to how I do. How do I know if all the other humans walking around actually have consciousness the way I do (there's someone really there, in each one, looking out of their eyes onto the world), or if I'm the only truly conscious human in the world with everyone else being a sort of fake, that is a philosophical zombie?

I asked my wife what she thinks, and oddly she says that she's the only truly conscious person in the universe and that everyone else is a philosophical zombie, including me. But how do I know that she isn't actually a philosophical zombie herself?

I can be pretty sure that everyone in the world isn't a philosophical zombie, because I, at least, seem to possess consciousness. However, I have no way to know if everyone else is a philosophical zombie.

So I ask you, are you a philosophical zombie?

Really this is a sort of thought experiment that gets at the "hard problem of consciousness" which includes questions such as:

* "Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?"
* "How is it that some organisms are subjects of experience?"
* "Why does awareness of sensory information exist at all?"
* "Why do qualia (secondary qualities like color) exist?"
* "Why is there a subjective component to experience?"

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Posted 2/23/08

shibole wrote:

By this I do not mean people who argue philosophy like zombies, but rather how do you know that everyone else possesses consciousness (awareness, not moral conscience)?

"A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "Ouch!" and so forth), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does." (Wikipedia)

So, in other words, I happen to be in this body (my body) looking out on the world, and I see other human bodies walking around and talking similar to how I do. How do I know if all the other humans walking around actually have consciousness the way I do (there's someone really there, in each one, looking out of their eyes onto the world), or if I'm the only truly conscious human in the world with everyone else being a sort of fake, that is a philosophical zombie?

I asked my wife what she thinks, and oddly she says that she's the only truly conscious person in the universe and that everyone else is a philosophical zombie, including me. But how do I know that she isn't actually a philosophical zombie herself?

I can be pretty sure that everyone in the world isn't a philosophical zombie, because I, at least, seem to possess consciousness. However, I have no way to know if everyone else is a philosophical zombie.

So I ask you, are you a philosophical zombie?


how could you ask us? it wouldn't provide you with an answer, you still wouldn't be able to know if everyone else possesses consciousness. its funny i thought about this also, yet i dont believe it to be true at all. i hope what your wife said was a joke or.... thats just..... well plain weird
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Posted 2/23/08

Firefly_Amelie wrote:

mmm..so humans call us p-zombies...(jkjk)

anyway.. I guess I'm not, but even if I say this, can you believe me?
I mean if there really exists something like p-zombies then u probably won't know who they are. One just can't tell.
btw, what's bad bout them(if they would exist)?


i dont think he thinks its bad i think hes just interested in what people think about it because we cannot prove each other conciseness
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Posted 2/23/08

Firefly_Amelie wrote:


crimsonkiba wrote:


Firefly_Amelie wrote:

mmm..so humans call us p-zombies...(jkjk)

anyway.. I guess I'm not, but even if I say this, can you believe me?
I mean if there really exists something like p-zombies then u probably won't know who they are. One just can't tell.
btw, what's bad bout them(if they would exist)?


i dont think he thinks its bad i think hes just interested in what people think about it because we cannot prove each other conciseness


true, buts what is still there to talk about then?...
if we are or aren't p-zombies...~
(sounds kinda useless to me, since it can't be proven..., I really don't mean this in a bad way, its just so )


i know i replyed with the same thing, its a useless thread
Posted 2/23/08

crimsonkiba wrote:

Firefly_Amelie wrote:

crimsonkiba wrote:
i dont think he thinks its bad i think hes just interested in what people think about it because we cannot prove each other conciseness

(sounds kinda useless to me, since it can't be proven..., I really don't mean this in a bad way, its just so )

i know i replyed with the same thing, its a useless thread

Yea, it is kind of useless, but I was curious as to what people would say. Overall, I think it's not unreasonable to assume that no humans are philosophical zombies and that all humans experience consciousness similar to yourself.

Anyway, I was hoping some more interesting discussion might take place. For example, some people think that consciousness is actually a sort of physical property of the universe, which the human brain somehow links to.
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Posted 2/23/08

shibole wrote:

By this I do not mean people who argue philosophy like zombies, but rather how do you know that everyone else possesses consciousness (awareness, not moral conscience)?

"A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "Ouch!" and so forth), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does." (Wikipedia)

So, in other words, I happen to be in this body (my body) looking out on the world, and I see other human bodies walking around and talking similar to how I do. How do I know if all the other humans walking around actually have consciousness the way I do (there's someone really there, in each one, looking out of their eyes onto the world), or if I'm the only truly conscious human in the world with everyone else being a sort of fake, that is a philosophical zombie?

I asked my wife what she thinks, and oddly she says that she's the only truly conscious person in the universe and that everyone else is a philosophical zombie, including me. But how do I know that she isn't actually a philosophical zombie herself?

I can be pretty sure that everyone in the world isn't a philosophical zombie, because I, at least, seem to possess consciousness. However, I have no way to know if everyone else is a philosophical zombie.

So I ask you, are you a philosophical zombie?


wow you know I've actually thought about something similar to this ever scince I was in 7th grade when my teacher asked us to explain color. I thought hm what if I'm the only one who sees color the way I see it and other people see it differently? (I mean like If I see blue, one other guy sees red, but that color red to him as been blue for all of his life)
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Posted 2/24/08

shibole wrote:

By this I do not mean people who argue philosophy like zombies, but rather how do you know that everyone else possesses consciousness (awareness, not moral conscience)?

"A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "Ouch!" and so forth), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does." (Wikipedia)

So, in other words, I happen to be in this body (my body) looking out on the world, and I see other human bodies walking around and talking similar to how I do. How do I know if all the other humans walking around actually have consciousness the way I do (there's someone really there, in each one, looking out of their eyes onto the world), or if I'm the only truly conscious human in the world with everyone else being a sort of fake, that is a philosophical zombie?

I asked my wife what she thinks, and oddly she says that she's the only truly conscious person in the universe and that everyone else is a philosophical zombie, including me. But how do I know that she isn't actually a philosophical zombie herself?

I can be pretty sure that everyone in the world isn't a philosophical zombie, because I, at least, seem to possess consciousness. However, I have no way to know if everyone else is a philosophical zombie.

So I ask you, are you a philosophical zombie?


We can never be sure. I may say that I am not, but who's to say you're one or not one? None of us has anyway of proving it. It's like saying 'the only person who exists is me' because that's all you know with certainty in terms of who is actually conscious. It's a lot like the philosophical version of the Freudian psychological 'id'...except maybe without so much sexual tension and cravings.

But then if everyone else is a p-zombie, then aren't we all truly alone? Unable to relate with another being because they can't relate to us, it's all an illusion. A hermit without actually being a hermit.
Posted 2/24/08
starting this topic makes me think your a p zombie
cause this topic lacks any real thought
its like saying are objects that i touch really there or does my eye see a image
and my brain just tell me that its there giveing me sense of touch and smell
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Posted 2/24/08

shibole wrote:

By this I do not mean people who argue philosophy like zombies, but rather how do you know that everyone else possesses consciousness (awareness, not moral conscience)?

"A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "Ouch!" and so forth), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does." (Wikipedia)

So, in other words, I happen to be in this body (my body) looking out on the world, and I see other human bodies walking around and talking similar to how I do. How do I know if all the other humans walking around actually have consciousness the way I do (there's someone really there, in each one, looking out of their eyes onto the world), or if I'm the only truly conscious human in the world with everyone else being a sort of fake, that is a philosophical zombie?

I asked my wife what she thinks, and oddly she says that she's the only truly conscious person in the universe and that everyone else is a philosophical zombie, including me. But how do I know that she isn't actually a philosophical zombie herself?

I can be pretty sure that everyone in the world isn't a philosophical zombie, because I, at least, seem to possess consciousness. However, I have no way to know if everyone else is a philosophical zombie.

So I ask you, are you a philosophical zombie?

Uwaaah!!I tot i was the only one! Since i was around 11 years old, i thought i was the only one who has the conciousness i do and i thoguht everyone else was fake and just illusions!Haha.
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Posted 2/24/08
never thought seriously that everyone else was just illusion,i don't know am i philosophical zombie, but i know it's stpidid question cause there isn't right answer. Everything has more sides than one, is my answer to this...
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Posted 2/24/08
I've had those same thoughts before, just didn't know it actualy had a name. But then if you think the whole world is conspiring against you, well thats just insane paranonia. Do you think the universe cares enough about YOU to create an existance in which you are the only one with a soul (or councious as you call it)? Trust me you're not that important... I'm the only one that important!
Posted 2/24/08
Ok, I improved the original post a little bit so this isn't such a pointless thread.
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Posted 2/24/08
For the sake of sanity I just assume that since I have consciousness and there appear to be no major difference between me and other human beings then they too must have consciousness. If they look like they have consciouness and act like they have consciousneess then I treat them like they have consciousness and it doesn't really matter if they are really philosophical zombies or not.
Posted 2/24/08
Is that somehow a reference to the fact that everything around you is merely an illusion as in their consciousness is merely an illusion? Though they are in every physical aspects the same as a non-zombie, but they are innerly dead, but lack the ability to know that they don't really feel what they think they are feeling. We could describe them as robots with a programmed brain that reacts to every given situation in a specific way. That's called automata(conscious). But what happens if there is a situation that they don't know, that have never experienced before? Maybe that would be a possibility to find out who actually is a zombie and who not.
For example Descartes said that there are two properties that would unmask such a person:
1)it could not use language creatively rather than producing stereotyped responses
2)it could not produce appropriate non-verbal behavior in arbitrarily various situations
He also said that a body without the contribution made by minds, the behaviour of this individuals would lack certain human characteristics/features. But what can we define by the word "human"? What is human? What is not human? And so on....<.<

I would say that it is possible, since most of the people are living by the herd mentality, and only rarely there are to be found some exceptions that would stand out of the crowd. The herd mentality is just proving that people tend to do what someone dominant tells them to do, and they don't think about it any further. As they are programmed like that. There are only very rarely people who wouldn't follow the crowd. If they all had their own consciousness then this wouldn't work out. Also the term "consciousness" is somehow very abstract and untouchable. What is the consciousness? Are the p-zombies really lacking consciousness or is it us, who think that we are not p-zombies? How can we possibly know that what we think is really what we think and not the work of some mechanism in our brain?
Basically there are no genuine answers to that, since we are all somehow subjects that are too abstract to grasp. Also the possibility that what we see, hear, taste and smell is some illusion and not reality, is very probable. I guess we will never find that out. >.>

Flo~
Posted 2/24/08

MidnightZorya wrote:
Is that somehow a reference to the fact that everything around you is merely an illusion as in their consciousness is merely an illusion?

No, I think that's called epistemological subjectivism or is at least related to it.

A philosophical zombie could be perfectly real in the physical sense, just not contain the "magical" property of consciousness.


Though they are in every physical aspects the same as a non-zombie, but they are innerly dead, but lack the ability to know that they don't really feel what they think they are feeling. We could describe them as robots with a programmed brain that reacts to every given situation in a specific way. That's called automata(conscious). But what happens if there is a situation that they don't know, that have never experienced before? Maybe that would be a possibility to find out who actually is a zombie and who not.
For example Descartes said that there are two properties that would unmask such a person:
1)it could not use language creatively rather than producing stereotyped responses
2)it could not produce appropriate non-verbal behavior in arbitrarily various situations
He also said that a body without the contribution made by minds, the behaviour of this individuals would lack certain human characteristics/features. But what can we define by the word "human"? What is human? What is not human? And so on....<.<

Basically a philosophical zombie would be sort of like the ultimate robot. It would be human according to pretty much every test that we know of, but somehow would just not possess consciousness the way you yourself do (or the way I assume you do).



I would say that it is possible, since most of the people are living by the herd mentality, and only rarely there are to be found some exceptions that would stand out of the crowd. The herd mentality is just proving that people tend to do what someone dominant tells them to do, and they don't think about it any further. As they are programmed like that. There are only very rarely people who wouldn't follow the crowd. If they all had their own consciousness then this wouldn't work out.

But people living by the herd mentality could possess consciousness. We're all living by the "herd mentality" in some way or another. For example, most of us agree that it's generally wrong to kill. We must be following the herd!

I can identify elements of my behavior that seem like "herd mentality" and I am conscious, therefore possessing the herd mentality in some degree does not prove that one doesn't possess consciousness.


Also the term "consciousness" is somehow very abstract and untouchable. What is the consciousness? Are the p-zombies really lacking consciousness or is it us, who think that we are not p-zombies? How can we possibly know that what we think is really what we think and not the work of some mechanism in our brain?

This is basically the whole point of the question, to demonstrate that we don't have a good physical test for consciousness and don't even really know what it is. If there's a physical basis of consciousness, we haven't found it yet. If consciousness was found to be related to a specific subatomic particle or dimension of space (say a "5th dimension") then some physics experiment might be able to prove that we all have this property. But since we don't know of anything like this, we have no objective way to distinguish between a "real" person with consciousness and a philosophical zombie. We can only test for consciousness in terms of behavior with the assumption that someone who behaves like a conscious human is conscious.



Basically there are no genuine answers to that, since we are all somehow subjects that are too abstract to grasp.

I think there are answers, but they're just not easy answers. And if there is a physical basis for consciousness, we may be ridiculously far away from finding it.



Also the possibility that what we see, hear, taste and smell is some illusion and not reality, is very probable. I guess we will never find that out. >.>

Well, if it's an illusion then it's an illusion that just happens to follow lots of physical laws rather strictly, and it seems to follow the same laws for everyone in the "illusion" including ourselves. Therefore, if it has so many hard rules in how it operates, how does it meet the definition of an illusion? Most people would probably say it doesn't. Calling it one is just playing silly word games.

Consciousness is a little different because, whether everything is an illusion or not, we see everything from a particular spot. Why this spot instead of some other spot?

What you see, etc, is sort of an illusion, but one that your mind creates based on data from your real matter sensors (eyes, ears, etc.) Basically it's like your bran scans your area and creates a sort of "virtual reality" for you which is what you experience as reality. There are some ways to show that this is happening, for example your eyes can only really see detail in a very tiny part in the middle of the retina. Most of what you "see" outside of that area is from visual memory; your eyes just give your brain a tiny bit of data on your peripheral visual area to let it know that stuff you were looking at earlier is still there. We also know that there are physical things, like x-rays, that physically exist even though we can't see them. The fact that there are things present that we can't see means that what we perceive as reality is necessarily not perfectly representative of it. I wouldn't really call that an illusion in that it usually isn't false (unless you're on acid), it's just incomplete.
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