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September 22, 2007


Gray Area

Nick: informally discussing consciousness with people I am struck by a sharp dichotomy of opinion. People either find consciousness very mysterious (dualism/Chalmers' view) or they think there's nothing there to explain (reductive materialism/Dennett's view). Perhaps the zombies, with their computational powers but lack of subjective experiences, are naturally lead to Dennettism.

I'm skeptical anyone knows enough to create arguments that successfully "demolish zombiehood".

Actually, the very arguments that establish what "zombiehood" is supposed to be require it to be unreal. The concept negates itself - it requires neither a great deal of knowledge nor a great deal of intelligence to recognize this and abolish it.

It does require a tremendous commitment to consistency and clarity, though, which most people are loath to make.

As for your original question: I suggest you research the history of the prefrontal leukotomy, especially in regards to victims' tendency to be perceived as normal in situations they had already been familiar with. When a light is on, we presume somebody's home, even when that is not the case.


I've been thinking about this a lot the last couple of days. A couple of angles to consider:

1)Zombie-ism/nonzombie-ism might be a relative state of affairs, based upon the quality of self reflection in any given person, and might lie along a spectrum, with that spectrum itself being merely a line segment within a line that stretches from gluons on up.

2)There may be no self-consciousness at all; and, in fact, no personhood. I'll admit, this might be nearly impossible to intuit, but really seems to only consistent approach to a materialistic philosophy. This would mean that abstraction itself ultimately reduces to the analogy of pixels on a screen. No thinker. No perceiver. Nothing but material (not defining what material actually is here) doing it's thing; a flow of ever-changing patterns of various degrees of complexity. Which, of course, would leave all philosophical, and even observational, principles moot. In human terms, I guess this would mean that 'illusion' is the very foundation of all thinking and discourse. But, not illusion, exactly...more a confluence of interpretations butting up against one another, absorbing one another, etc; but in a physical sense, rather than a conceptual one.

Of course, the sense of this is very difficult, if not impossible, to convey, for the reason I've just cited above. No matter how much we'd like to play marbles in the air, it seems that we're limited to the dirt. Unless, of course...

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