Zoombies & Shombies

Some of you may remember the Zombie Wars from earlier in the summer, those of you who don’t can be spared the gory details. The dispute was initiated by what I called my Reverse-Zombie argument against dualism. The basic idea is simple. The dualist claims that zombies are conceivable therefore possible therefore physicalism is false. I argued that this is a question begging argument. We cannot believe that zombies are conceivable unless we have already assumed that there is more to qualitative consciousness than the physical. To put the point the other way around, if physicalism turns out to be true then zombies are not really conceivable, thoughit may seem to us that they are in our current state of ignorance. To illustrate this I asked people to imagine a zoombie (pronounced ‘ZOOM be’). A zoombie is a creature that is identical to me in every non-physical respect but which lacks qualitative consciousness.

The response I got was that zoombies were conceivable but they did not threaten the zombie argument because the zoombie argument was not truly a parody of the original zombie argument. The zombie argument tries to show us that there is no way to deduce the qualitative facts from the physical facts. This is because the dualist thinks that there are no properties which we can reduce qualitative consciousness to. Qualitative facts do not follow from physical facts on the dualist’s view because the physical facts do not explicitly mention the qualitative facts. All the zoombie argument shows is that neither can we reduce qualitative facts to non-physical facts which don’t explicitly mention qualitative facts. But, of course, no dualist has ever wanted to reduce qualitative facts to non-physical non-qualitative facts so the zoombie argument is worthless.

 I responded that this issue that is being called reduction is besides the point. Some physicalists think that we will be able to deduce the qualitative facts from the physical facts others do not (like Davidson’s anomolous monism). So in one sense the claim that the qualitative facts do not follow from the physical facts is irrelevant. In the sense that it matters the argument is question begging. If I can really conceive of a creature that has all of my non-physical properties but lacks qualitative consciousness in a world that is physically just like this one then the zoombie world shows that dualism is false. But still, it is true that the zoombie argument is not an exact parody of the zombie argument.

But is easy to get one. Let us imagine what I call a ‘shombie’ world (pronounced like ‘zombie’ but with a ‘sh’). The shombie world is a completely physical world. There are no non-physical properties in this world. There are though creatures that are physically and qualitatively  identical to us. So there is a shombie Richard and a shombie Dave Chalmers, etc. These shombies are completely physical creatures who are identical to their real world twins in every mico-physical way (the only way to be identical in the shombie world). The difference between zombies and shombies is that shombies have qualitative consciousness. Shombie Richard is just like me in every qualitative respect; he feels real pain and has real itches and tickles and seeing of red, etc. Of course, in the shombie world these qualitative facts just are physical facts. There is nothing ‘missing’ in the shombie world. Things there are EXACTLY as they are here except that we stipulate that the shombie world is completely physical.

Shombies are conceivable and so possible. Dualism is therefore false. The shombie argument against dualism exactly parallels the zombie argument against physicalism and both are bad arguments for the same reason.

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7 thoughts on “Zoombies & Shombies

  1. If the two arguments run exactly parallel to each other, then I think your conclusion for physicalism defeats itself. First, a property dualist holds that the connection between the physical/functional properties, and the mental properties is one of nomological necessity. For those who become convinced of dualism, the zombie argument is an expression of the intuition that the connection between the two is not metaphysically necessary. (Note, though, that the zombie argument needn’t be question-begging. If one has no prior commitments to either dualism or physicalism, then the argument isn’t question-begging.)

    Second, in order for the argument to be parallel, you’d need to express the intuition that the connection between the mental and the physical (I’m using those terms as Lewis would) in the real world (and the shombie world) is one of nomological necessity. But what self-respecting physicalist argument would claim that the supervenience connection between mental and physical isn’t one of metaphysical necessity?! Your argument does seem to express that the relation between mental and physical is nomological, or else the shombie world would be *no* different than the real world. A physicalist argument should insist that the mental/physical connection is metaphysically necessary, and yet your shombie argument doesn’t do that.

  2. To add on to that, I guess what I’m saying is that it looks like you’re in a dilemma. Either the argument isn’t exactly parallel or the argument is not a physicalist argument. In my previous comment, I opted for the latter. However, your description is a bit confusing.
    You say:
    “There are though creatures that are physically and qualitatively identical to us.” But then you say: “Things there are EXACTLY as they are here except that we stipulate that the shombie world is completely physical.”

    If the former sentence is correct, then I’m at a loss for figuring out how anything is different between the two worlds. If the latter sentence is correct, then you seemed to have added a difference.

  3. Hi JS, thanks for the comment(s)!

    “First, a property dualist holds that the connection between the physical/functional properties, and the mental properties is one of nomological necessity. For those who become convinced of dualism, the zombie argument is an expression of the intuition that the connection between the two is not metaphysically necessary.”

    Right, I agree that this is what the property dualist thinks. Did I say something to suggest otherwise? I certainly didn’t mean to. It is because I think that this is what the property dualist thinks that the zoombie argument works. The zoombie world is a world that is nomologically identical to the actual world and where there are creatures –zoombies– that are non-physically identical to you and me but which lack qualitative consciousness.

    “(Note, though, that the zombie argument needn’t be question-begging. If one has no prior commitments to either dualism or physicalism, then the argument isn’t question-begging.)”

    It is hard to imagine someone with no prior commitments on this issue (at least if we allow implicit commitments) but I take the point. My point, though, was that it is sometimes held that the zombie argument shows that materialism is false. This is absurd. What the zombie argument shows, if it shows anything, is that you (or I, or whoever is thinking about it) is commited to the conclusion if you are committed to the premises, but there is no reason to accept the first premise; or at least no one has ever given a reason for it other than ‘I seem to be able to do it’. But I actually gave an argument that your seeming to be able to do it is not the same thing as actually doing it…

    “A physicalist argument should insist that the mental/physical connection is metaphysically necessary, and yet your shombie argument doesn’t do that.”

    Well maybe it should, but not all do. The ‘Australian Identity Theorists’ seem to think that the identities are only nomologically necessary…but I take the point that the Kripkean kind of physicalist like myself is committed to the claim that the identities are metaphysically necessary…that’s why I think that the shombie world refutes dualism. Since the qualitative states in the shombie world are identical to physical states of the shombie and since the identities are necessary there are no worlds where there are non-physical mental properties and everyworld where there are physical duplicates of me is a world where there is qualitative consciousness; therefore the zombie world is not really conceivable.

    “You say:
    “There are though creatures that are physically and qualitatively identical to us.” But then you say: “Things there are EXACTLY as they are here except that we stipulate that the shombie world is completely physical.”

    If the former sentence is correct, then I’m at a loss for figuring out how anything is different between the two worlds. If the latter sentence is correct, then you seemed to have added a difference.”

    The point is that the shombie world is a physical and qualitative duplicate of the actual world which is completely physical. There are real pains and itches and tickles but they are stipulated to be physical propeties of physical creatures. It may turn out that this is the shombie world if physicalism is right. So I do not know if that is a difference between the two worlds or not. But why does that matter? The shombie world is conceivable and that is all that is needed.

  4. It would seem from the comments on Keith Frankish’s guest post on Eric Schwitzgebel’s blog that Chalmers defense against this is that physicalism is just plain inconceivable. hmm…

  5. I wasn’t aware of that GNZ…thanks!

    yeah, Chalmers has to say that shombies are inconceivable, just like I say that zombies are…but the point is that we need an argument for this, and it isn’t the zombie argument.

  6. Yes I found it interesting that after all of the debate the whole argument seems to rest on an absolutely monumental piece of question begging.

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