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.