“The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun.”—Richard Dawkins
“In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.”—Time Magazine (April 7, 1980)
“Once you were just insentient cells, no more aware of anything than your liver is now. Today you are brimming with consciousness. How did you make the grade? What catapulted you into consciousness? There must be some kind of natural process behind this astonishing leap, but this process is obscure.”—Colin McGinn
“I once read a paper at the Australasian Association of Philosophy with the title “It is not rational to believe in God.” However, for the most part, I have adhered to the view that the existence of God is one of those matters on which reasonable people can reasonably disagree: those who believe in God need not be guilty of some failure of reasoning, even though their beliefs are not appropriately linked to the way that things really are.”—Graham Oppy
“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life — and only then will I be free to become myself.”—Martin Heidigger
I’m going to present to you an argument by David Chalmers which purports to show that physicalism is false. I begin by defining terms. If one is a physicalist, then one believes that all that exists is physical—that every fact in the world can be adequately explained in terms of the physical. With regard to mental states a physicalist will say that, given all the physical facts that there are about the world, we’ll get the mental ones for free. Another way to think about this is the following: We have in front of us a pencil drawing of a bear. Now if an artist were to recreate those same pencil markings on another sheet of paper, then we’d get a drawing of a bear for free. In the same way, the physicalist will say, given all of the physical facts in our world we get the mental facts for free, too. It is this thesis which the zombie argument wants to show is false.
I now introduce the notion of a zombie world. First, what’s a zombie? The type of zombie I want to talk about is not the type you see in movies. For the purposes of this argument, zombies are exact physical duplicates of us. If there were a zombie world in which all of the physical facts about our world hold, then in that world there’d be a zombie-Torrance right now typing on his laptop. Zombie-Torrance walks, talks, looks, and acts like the Torrance in the actual world. The only difference is that zombie-Torrance has no phenomenal consciousness or phenomenal states. In fact in the hypothesized zombie world there is no consciousness present at all in anybody or anything; there’s no what-it’s-like to be, do, or feel anything—no “inner cinema” or “lens of consciousness” through which anybody views the world. Zombie-Torrance may get pinched and respond by saying “ouch!” But he doesn’t actually feel pain because, as stipulated, there are no phenomenal states in the zombie world.
The proponent of the zombie argument will first say that a zombie world is conceivable: that is, it’s conceivable that there be a world in which all of the physical facts in our world hold and that in such a world there are no phenomenal states of consciousness. The second claim is that if a zombie world is conceivable then it’s possible; this is because whatever state of affairs we can conceive of is generally something that’s at least possible. The third claim is that if a zombie world is possible, then physicalism is false. Why? Well if it’s possible that given the physical facts we don’t get the mental ones for free, it’s necessarily the case that given the physical facts we don’t get the mental facts for free. That is, if it’s possible that phenomenal consciousness is not a physical thing or process, then it’s necessarily the case that phenomenal consciousness is not something physical. Another way to think about it is this: If it’s possible that A is identical to B, then it’s necessarily the case that A is identical to B because, e.g., there is no possible circumstance in which this particular cup is not identical to this particular cup. In the same way, if it’s possible for consciousness to not be something physical, then it’s necessarily the case that consciousness is not physical; and this is enough to show that physicalism is false. My reasoning can be summarized as follows:
(1) Zombies are conceivable. (2) If zombies are conceivable, then zombies are (metaphysically) possible. (3) If zombies are (metaphysically) possible, then physicalism is false. (4) Therefore, physicalism is false.
Notice that this is a valid argument. That is, if the premises really are true then the conclusion follows logically and inescapably. In order to rationally escape the conclusion, then, we’d have to argue that at least one of the premises is false. We shouldn’t deny (3), however, because this is just part of the definition of physicalism with which we are working. The physicalist will have to deny either (1) or (2). So are you a physicalist? If so, which premise do you deny, and why? (Also remember that one doesn’t need to be a physicalist to disagree with the premises.)
If you haven’t already, would everyone sneak a visit to the previous blog owner’s tumblr (bexamous.tumblr.com) to thank her for the amazing job she’s been doing in running this? Bex will continue to have full administrator access to the blog.
..and now for a mini introduction. I’m 22, recently graduated from the University of California with a B.S. in psychology and B.A. in philosophy. I’m applying to graduate programs in philosophy this December/January cycle and hope to specialize in the philosophy of mind.
This blog will be the same in that postings of quotes from some of the greatest historical and contemporary philosophers will remain a staple part of the blog’s output. If there’s interest I will from time to time post a philosophical argument and offer it up to critique. This, I hope, will encourage thought-provoking discussion and serve to highlight some of the most influential and discussed arguments among philosophers from the past, as well as on the contemporary scene.
Polishedlake is going to be taking over this blog from today. I’m confident that they will keep the character and tone of the blog the way I intended, and I look forward to the small changes they plan to make.
Running this blog has been a fantastic experience. Thankyou to every single one of you for the support. I hope to still have some input in the blog, but nonetheless I’ll miss it.
A couple of you who messaged me about taking over this blog have questions turned off on your blog, and however much I’d like you to be involved in this blog, if I can’t get in touch with you then you’ll have to be discounted.
Please turn your questions on as soon as possible if you’d like me to consider you.
I’ve neglected this blog for a very long time! That’s for a few reasons:
I got sick of being interrogated about my degree, and slammed for positing quotes relating to theology, or the philosophy of religion.
I’m now in my third year of university, and have shifted my focus away from philosophy for biblical studies, which I want to pursue to PHD level - as such, my knowledge has waned and I no longer feel qualified to run this blog
I quite simply don’t have the time
This blog has got quite popular, and I’d really like it to continue, I just don’t want to run it myself anymore. If any of my followers would like to help it continue, send me a message. If I get a few offers, I’ll probably have a short chat with each of you and decide who I’d like to leave it with.