[FoRK] Why is there any experience of it, at all? (was: GEB, etc.)

Russell Turpin <deafbox at hotmail.com> on Tue Jul 10 05:54:15 PDT 2007

I wrote:
>>But that question cuts both ways. I have no proof that I am not a
>>philosophical zombie.

Lion Kimbro:
>In fact, if you have any doubts, I think that you should just out and say, 
>"I'm not conscious, I'm not aware, I'm not having an experience; Not like 
>you're talking about.

It's precisely that last five words that leaves me a bit flummoxed.

We were just discussing that a zombie has consciousness of a sort,
that its behavior requires a cognitive architecture whereby parts of
it are aware of its sensations and other aspects of its inner life, in
a way that a fly, for example, is not. Let's call this Z-consciousness.
When a zombie says, "I am consious and aware," there is no reason to
think it is either lying or just mouthing words it doesn't understand.

Now, if you were to tell that zombie, "why not just say you're not
conscious, at least, not like I'm talking about," I can imagine it
might respond, quite truthfully: "How am I to distinguish how I am
conscious from the way you are conscious? How am to know they are

And if the zombie is asking me that, I don't have a good answer. Which
raises the possibility that *I* am a philosophical zombie. I don't know
what it is like to be a zombie. Which means it might be exactly like
what it is to be me. Yes, obviously, my experience is real to me. If you
ask me if my lights are on, I'll truthfully answer "yes," because MY
experience and understanding of language affirms that. But is that "like
you're talking about"? Alas, I don't see anyway to know that. It might
be that you're talking about something important that I don't have. But
I don't see how either of us can know that, either.

Or to put it another way, I don't see a difference between the problems
posed by philosophical zombies, and the older other minds problem. It
once was asked in philosophy departments, how can anyone know that
anyone else actually is conscious? The quintessential test of this was
to drop a brick on a classmate's foot. They would grab the injured part,
jump around and curse, etc. Now drop the brick on your own foot.
(Assuming the philosophy major in the next seat over hasn't already
returned the favor.) There's still the grabbing of the injured part, the
jumping and cursing. But now there is something new: Real Pain. And you
had no hint of that when you dropped the brick on your classmate's foot.
Maybe theirs was mere biology and physics. Signals go up nerves, cause
some amount of activity in the brain, which generates the behavior
observed. But your own -- oh, you KNOW that has Real Experience


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