How to refute the Philosophical Zombie argument?

That would be a poorly formulated argument since the one indisputable fact about oneself as a conscious being is that all possible arguments and discussion presuppose conscious awareness, i.e., the capacity to apprehend reality around us, in order to entertain any argument at all.

Even understanding what “brain function” is presupposes consciousness – an intelligent someone who comprehends through awareness.

So the “we all could be P-Zombies” isn’t tenable for someone who is conscious precisely because even considering the idea presupposes consciousness of the idea.

In other words, we can’t “all be p-zombies” because at least one of us, namely the conscious speaker, isn’t a P-Zombie.

The choice isn’t between brain function and mind-body dualism, the proper alternative is: What are the implications of my undeniable conscious awareness since brain function is not a tenable explanation? Is mind-body dualism the only alternative? It isn’t.

The argument is not that we could all be p-zombies. The proposition is that materialism dictates that the physical world is all that’s required for consciousness. If p-zombies were conceivable (a person materially identical to you for example) then it refutes that proposition. It would be impossible to be physically identical to you and not be conscious. The p-zombie would be lacking something that is not material. Hence dualism.

I’m not formulating an argument. I’m giving a broad stroke quick on-my-phone overview in two or three sentences.

Freddy was more precise.

No, actually, the argument doesn’t attempt to refute the proposition that all that is required for consciousness is the physical world.

The P-Zombie argument isn’t that it “would be impossible to be physically identical to you and not be conscious.

It is claiming just the opposite, which is why it doesn’t imply mind-body dualism (contrary to what you keep insisting.)

The claim is that it is, in fact, conceivable and very possible (i.e., NOT impossible) “to be physically identical to you and not be conscious.” That is the point. That is exactly what a P-Zombie is, by definition: someone who is physically identical (according to our current conception of the physical world) to you who is not conscious.

The proper implication is that the material world (as we currently understand it) doesn’t explain consciousness, so our current conception of the physical world is in some way lacking.

Ergo, it does not “attempt to refute the proposition that all that is required for consciousness is the physical world,” except as a possible corollary to the more significant argument that our current conception of the physical world/neurophysiology is not sufficient to explain consciousness.

That doesn’t lead, neither logically nor necessarily, to mind-body dualism, as you claim. It leads, logically speaking, only to the conclusion that our current materialistic view of reality is inadequate. That only argues for a revision of materialistic cause-effect premises, not for dualism, necessarily.

That’s right. I’m not sure why you are saying I’m wrong. Part of your argument is simply paraphrasing the point I made. If materialism is correct then p-zombies could not exist. Because if the zombie was materially identical to you and yet not conscious then that would imply that consciousness is something other than material. Which he would be missing. And hence a zombie.

P-zombies are conceivable: dualism
P-zombies are not conceivable: materialism.

That’s a vast over-simplication but close enough.

And thanks to everyone who said they were impossible. You didn’t understand the implications of saying so, so it’s a little unfair to claim victory for the materialists. But a lesson there for all of us: understand the argument before taking a position (hopefully some of those who deny evolution will bear that in mind).

You really don’t have to respond to zombies and their pointless zombie arguments. I mean, really. What’s the worst that will happen if you ignore their futile zombie attempt at philosophical argument?

Just get on with your own real life.

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Do we now have just-get-on-with-your-life-ism to add to materialism and dualism?

Ignore them… and you free your mind of pure unadulterated time-wasting nonsense?

Some philosophical “arguments” sound clever but just aren’t worth addressing. Just because something can be framed as such doesn’t mean it deserves the response of a thought-out reply.

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Exactly… . They’re stupid IMHO… False Arguments…



clearly spell out your demands for proof?
who are you?
what is Existence?

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Freddy, I’m sorry.
I don’t respond to questions from zombies.
If you can prove to me that you’re not a zombie then we’ll talk. * wink *

Aahg! Look! It’s a thought experiment! How in heaven’s name did it get into the philosophy section? Quick, I’ll light the torches. Martha, go get the pitchforks. Hurry woman!


It is such a “vast over-simplification” that it amounts to a false dichotomy.

Your implication ONLY holds true if dualism or materialism, as you conceive of them, are the ONLY two options.

And clearly, you have a penchant for assuming that what you understand by certain terms is what all philosophers must mean.

That was the point you missed in attempting to “vastly over-simplify” (i.e., shred) the entire argument.

You keep assuming that, and keep ignoring my point as if I am simply repeating what you state, which isn’t true.

Hylomorphism [being is a compound of matter and form] doesn’t amount to mind-body dualism unless you assume matter in that conception is exactly what moderns conceive of as ‘matter,’ and that form is merely what moderns conceive of as ‘mind’. That may not be entirely true, depending upon which Thomists or Aristotelians or hylemorphists you speak to.

Here is, for example, Edward Feser arguing that hylemorphic dualism doesn’t posit two distinct substances (mind/body), but rather one substance with two aspects or “constituents.”

In an earlier post, I suggested that one of the advantages of hylemorphic dualism over Cartesian dualism is that its notion of formal causation allows it to sidestep the interaction problem. For if the soul is the form of the body, rather than a distinct substance in its own right, then there is no question of two substances having to “interact” in the order of efficient causes on the model of two billiard balls. There is rather just the one substance, a human being, having (as every other material substance has) two constituents, its form (or soul) and its matter (or body). The “interaction” between them is no more problematic than the “interaction” between the form of a tree and the matter that makes up the tree. For soul and body do not “interact” in the first place the way two distinct things do; they together constitute a single thing.

The distinction might be too subtle for some with a tendency to “over-simplify” stuff to grasp, but it does exist and in sufficient degree that it makes a difference to those making the argument, despite that you think they are only repeating what you state.

We might well ask, of your lack of philosophical accuracy (i.e., your tendency to "vastly over-simplify)…

I said it was a simplification because p-zombies are only used as a basis for determining the standard dualism/materialism question. Some people have seemed to be unaware of this and have taken it to be more a question along the lines: How do we know we’re not zombies.

I haven’t brought up any other arguments (such as hylomorphic dualism) because it’s not relevant to the question of p-zombies. Which, again, only deals with the standard dualism/materialism question.

I’m not offering a false dichotomy because there are just the two options considered when discussing p-zombies. If you want to claim that dualism as opposed to materialism is the correct approach AND that hylomorphic dualism is THEN the correct form of dualism then start a new thread. I’d be keen to discuss it (or we can carry on here - threads seem to wander all overbthe place and I don’t hink the op would object).

So to reiterate. The first question has only two answers: Dualism or materialism. Once that is decided then one can investigate the options for the position taken. If you pick dualism THEN you can propose hylomorphic dualism.

No actually, the P-Zombie argument was initially offered by Keith Campbell in 1970 and Robert Kirk in 1974 as refutations of physicalism, i.e, against the claim that strict materialism is true. It was later picked up by David Chalmers who argued that since a zombie is defined as physiologically indistinguishable from human beings, even its logical possibility would be a sound refutation of physicalism.

In other words, there is no initial assumption of mind-body dualism in any one of the arguments that have ever been made by philosophers, despite that you claim otherwise. The only initial premise in all of those arguments is that if the physical universe is all there is, then P-Zombies are inconceivable.

It isn’t an argument for dualism, but rather an argument against physicalism. That is what all the proponents of the argument have ever claimed, despite your revisionist view.

Well done. Seems you’ve done some reading on the matter. I wish everyone was as keen as you. Although one wonders what options one might have other than physicalism/materialism and dualism.

Anyway…please feel free to make some arguments on hylomorphic dualism as mentioned earlier if you’re interested.

No need to reinvent the wheel. Feser does a competent job making those arguments. See the link above.

‘Read this’ is your argument? I think not…

The purpose of the thread topic is to refute the PZ argument, it isn’t about hylemorphic dualism. Start a thread if you are sincerely interested.

In the meantime, the point and title of the thread – refuting the PZ argument – ought to concern what the PZ argument actually attempts to accomplish, which isn’t to establish mind-body dualism (as you claim) but to refute physicalism (eliminative materialism.)

Perhaps we are now straight on that?

So easy to assert… So impossible to solidly prove…

No proof? No Argument…

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