In some earlier posts (Non-Physical Zombies, How Not to Imagine Zombies, Beating an Undead Horse) I introduced and defended a parody zombie argument designed to highlight the incredible question-begging nature of the original zombie argument. Richard Chappell has not been impressed, calling it a “terrible argument” and saying that it “falls flat (to put it mildly)” . I find this amusing, since the purpose of the argument was to highlight how much question begging is going on around here, and never one to disappoint, RC eagerly begs the question exclaiming “Dualists will complain: you left out the qualia!” . Yes, they will complain; because they think that qualia are non-physical to begin with, just like the materialist complains that there is nothing more to qualia than the physical when he hears the zombie argument for the first time. This is even clearer when RC restates his objection over at Philosophy, etc. He says,
(i) Either ‘NP’ explicitly states the qualia facts Q, or it does not. (ii) If it does, then (NP & ~Q) is straightforwardly contradictory, so the first premise fails. (iii) Otherwise, the third premise fails.
NP is here the complete non-physical description of the world in question. So, if NP explicitly states facts about qualia, then either the question about the nature of qualia has been resolved and we know that they are non-physical and so belong in NP, or we don’t have this issue resolved and we are just begging the question against the materialist. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it is obvious that we do not have this issue resolved and so (i) is question begging (to put it mildly).
The third premise of the argument was
3. If (NP & ~Q) is possible then Dualism is false
RC says that if we do not state the qualia facts in NP then (3) will be false. Why will (3) be false? The only way that this could be the case would be if it were true that (NP & ~ Q) were possible (that is, it would be possible that there could be non-physical creatures identical to me in every non-physical way, which lack qualia) and Dualism were not false (i.e. it was true). That would have to mean that there were non-physical qualia that were not included in NP, and this is what RC keeps saying. But why should we think that there are non-physical qualia not included in NP? No reason for that is ever given. It is just assumed that qualia are non-physical and so that NP must be incomplete.
RC then goes on to accuse me of missing the point. “The substantive question,” he says,
is whether qualia are irreducible. The conceivability argument works to show that qualia are not reducible to any P (nor NP) which does not explicitly build in qualia. But the NP-based argument is no argument against dualism, because dualists never claimed that qualia were reducible to some OTHER non-physical stuff (whatever you build into NP). Physicalists, on the other hand, doclaim that qualia are reducible to some other physical stuff P.
I, of course, disagreed that this was the substantive issue and argued that the issue of reduction is itself a question begging way of putting the dispute (Reduction, Identity, and Explanation). RC ignores the argument that I gave and instead says that I
simply insist, “the debate between the dualist and the materialist is in no way a debate about reduction“, and so ignore [his] underlying idea concerning what the debate is about.
The quoted line is supposed to be the conclusion of an argument not me simply insisting anything, but let’s let that go. What does RC think that the debate is about?
Once you’ve included the microphysical facts in your base facts, you do not need to add any further ‘table facts’ in addition. Those are already covered. It is in this sensethat table facts are reducible to physical facts. And it is in this sense that the question of physicalism comes down to the question whether qualia are reducible. It is simply the question whether we need to add phenomenal facts to our fundamental base facts, or whether they “come along for free” (like tables do) given the physical facts P.
Now, I am happy to agree that this is what the dispute is about, though as I argued this isn’t really a reductive claim (ontologically). In fact, I have never denied this! The materialist says that we don’t need to add anything, the dualist denies this. What I have denied is that this is really an issue of reduction in anything other than a verbal sense, but as RC points out, that doesn’t really matter…as long as everyone involved agrees on what the issue is.
But now that we all agree on what the issue is, it should be even more obvious that the zombie argument begs the question against the materialist. They tell us to conceive of a world where there are physical duplicates of us that lack consciousness and that doing so shows that the qualitative facts do not ‘”come along for free” (like tables do) given the physical facts P’. But how do you know that you are really conceiving that world without contradiction? If materialism is true then you are not really conceiving what you think that you are. Since we do not know if materialism is true or not we do not know if we are really conceiving the zombie world without contradiction or not. And that is the point. Without knowing whether or not materialism is true we cannot know if the zombie argument is a good argument or a question begging argument.