How to refute the Philosophical Zombie argument?

The Philosophical Zombie Argument asserts that there is a possibility that everyone in the world other than one person doesn’t have consciousness; even though their outward appearance and behavior is identical to a conscious human.

That means, even if these “zombies” frequently have intellectual conversations; these are just random body reactions that just happen to appear like conscious conversation. It is just a freakish coincidence.

I have a few questions:

  1. How do we refute this?

  2. What impact would this have on the lone conscious person if this argument were true? (What truth they could know)

  3. What impact would this have on the faith if it was true? (Could God be a “zombie”?)

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So I am all that there is in the universe. Tell me, how do I create all of the information known to mankind? The knowledge of our universe, biology, literature, etc. My mind is somehow intelligent enough, even if I do not know it now, to create the details of the Theory of Relativity when I decide to study it? Ok, there is one really, powerful supercomputer that can come up with all this stuff and it is me? Yet I am not smart enough to figure out that everything around me is a product of my imagination? Its a dumb argument.

This is why the argument does not work. How could they not know the truth, if they were so dang smart?

A hypothetical that makes little sense, since it cannot be true.

  1. I don’t see this as needing refutation until/unless proofs are given for it. It postulates something, but no reasons are given. Preemptively, we could say that we have no reason to believe that this is the case because it would be impossible to tell the difference between a conscious person and a “zombie”, and thus we have no reason to believe that only one person possesses what we call consciousness when all display the outward appearance of having it.

  2. I don’t see what effect, if any, this would have on the lone conscious person. Even if they knew that everyone else was a “zombie”, the realization wouldn’t affect their practical life. They could go on living as they had before, though they may fall into philosophical despair.

  3. Really, if we discovered one “truly conscious” person among everyone else, then wouldn’t our Faith be unaffected, except in the case of the one? Our Faith would have then been built for the “zombies”, inasmuch as their limited consciousness would have been considered. We would probably end up having to redefine “consciousness”, since the common usage would no longer be applicable to the majority, just as “normal” is meant to say something about the majority.

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I don’t think you need to worry about refuting a what-if.

I don’t know why you’d want to though. P-zombie thought experiments are used to defend mind-body dualism. Pretty sure Christians want to accept dualism vis-a-vis body and soul.

This comes up often, under different names, here at CAF. Try searching the archives.

You let it die a slow death by ignoring it?

The Philosophical Zombie Argument asserts that there is a possibility that everyone in the world other than one person doesn’t have consciousness; even though their outward appearance and behavior is identical to a conscious human.

One what grounds is it possible? A lot of these thought experiments like the brain in the vat, the evil genius, or “it’s all just a dream” all rely on the premise that if we can imagine something is possible, then it really is possible.

But that’s a ridiculous idea. Imagining $1 million in front of me does not make it real, and so imagining the possibility of these things does not make the possibility real either. It’s magical thinking, plain and simple, even if we dress it up in philosophy.

If someone wants to establish that something is really possible, they need to provide evidence for it. It is not rational to deny the evident by the non-evident.

That means, even if these “zombies” frequently have intellectual conversations; these are just random body reactions that just happen to appear like conscious conversation. It is just a freakish coincidence.

The way we know that others are conscious is by looking at how our interior life relates to our outward behavior, and by observing and discerning this outward behavior in others, we can determine that they too are conscious “on the inside” as we are, and even go so far as to figure out what they are experiencing “on the inside” based on drawing an analogy to our own interior experiences (for example, we see how crying is caused by sadness in us, and so we can discern that someone might be experiencing sadness if they are crying).

If someone Really wants to know what’s what,
one should seek to avail themselves
of the Guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

This is one of those arguments, like total predestination and the Boltzmann brain hypothesis, where, even if it were true we would have to act like it was not. There’s no point in refuting something that demands you act like it isn’t true.

Were someone to say this to me as a serious argument I think I would ask: Does the fact that you were able to put forward that argument with a straight face count as proof for it or against it?


As has already been said, it’s not meant to be taken as a possibilty in itself. It just serves as a thought experiment to back up dualism.

“Philosophical zombie arguments are used in support of mind-body dualism against forms of physicalism such as materialism, behaviorism and functionalism. It is an argument against the idea that the “hard problem of consciousness” (accounting for subjective, intrinsic, first person, what-it’s-like-ness) could be answered by purely physical means.”

I’d be wary of discounting something out of hand without investigating what that actually entails. Which in this case is support for materialism.

Besides pointing out that it’s a conclusion from bare assertion? There’s absolutely no evidence that it’s true and it’s based on an irrational argument, therefore there’s no need to refute it.

I suppose that you could tell the guy making the claim that he’s one of the zombies, that he onlyappears to be thinking and since he’s really not…

I have an argument against philosopical zombie (PZ). I can argue that there is at least one other conscious being rather than you who is in cahrge of changes, changes being whatever you experience. For this I need to show that there exist a consious mind for any change: Consider a change in a system, A to B. A and B cannot coexist therefore A has to vanishes before B emerges. There is however nothing when A vanshies and you cannot have B out of nothing. Therefore, for any change it should exist a mind who experiences A and causes B. So up to here we show that there is a mind for any change. So the last step of argument against PZ is based on the fact that there are changes which your mind don’t cause. Therefore there is at least one other mind in charge of other changes.

You can just dismiss it by saying “I’m not convinced”. The onus lies with the presenter, not the recipient.

Someone: "Prove you exist!"

Another: “NO!” , :heart_eyes:

I guess I’m just the only person and the universe begins and ends with me. Don’t listen to others saying that, they’re fakers.

This is essentially solipsism, except instead of your mind it’s ‘one other person in the world’.

This is true. The best refutation lies on the grounds of utility. It’s basically a useless way to orient oneself even if true and so should be disregarded.

Many Christians wouldn’t defend mind-body dualism, but what Thomists would call hylomorphism (or hylemorphism) where entities that exist in the physical universe consist of form constrained by a category of “material” properties (not mind and matter). That isn’t to say there are two discrete kinds of stuff – mind stuff and matter stuff – but rather that existence comes in various flavours of actualization (form) and to speak of matter is to speak of the manner or degree to which something is actualized or informed. Material ‘properties’ are kinds of constraints on the manner or form in which certain things exist. Matter isn’t “stuff” so much as how some things are actualized (partake in existence.)

P-zombie thought experiments aren’t used to defend mind-body dualism, from my understanding. They are thought experiments to demonstrate that consciousness or personal identity is not reducible to brain function, since it is conceivable that a P-Zombie could exhibit all the outward manifestations of human behaviour/function while having no conscious self-awareness. The point being that consciousness cannot be reduced to brain/body functions, besides that there is no clear brain activity that is connected to consciousness itself.

This is not an argument or support for materialism, as @Freddy appears to have asserted.

It is an argument for why consciousness (mind) cannot be reduced to material or observable properties. That doesn’t argue for the existence of matter, as such.

In the end, even “matter” turns out to be quite a theoretical construct according to modern physics. It doesn’t appear that in the final analysis there is any “stuff” there to be spoken of.

Yes. IF p zombies can conceivably exist. I think that some people have hold of the wrong end of the stick and end up arguing against dualism.

Yes. If consciousness is reducible to brain function, then we could all be p-zombies.

We don’t want to be p-zombies.

So, mind-body dualism.

This is in the broadest unnuanced brush strokes.

And then using these arguments, you could make a similar argument for hylomorphism.

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