Zombie Argument Essay
The important problems of the mind module are: how do we understand the nature of mental events, their relation to the physical world and physical events and fundamentally the problems with other minds. This essay essentially serves to evaluate whether the Zombie argument against Cartesian Dualism is sound by: criticising the Zombie argument through analysing the validity of each premise of the Zombie argument, defending the Zombie argument against one of its objections and responses from the Cartesian Argument by analogy. This essay will offer reasons to believe the Zombie argument by contrasting it with the strengths and weaknesses of the Cartesian Dualist main argument and the Cartesian Dualist Argument by Analogy and then draw a conclusion as to whether the Zombie objection to Cartesian Dualism is sound and strong. But, first this essay will present what Cartesian Dualism says in order for us to understand its objection (the Zombie argument).
Secondly this essay will evaluate the Zombie arguments’ soundness and strength by investigating the validity of each premise, and the objection presented to the Zombie argument by Cartesian Dualist from the Argument by Analogy. Further, this essay will provide reasons to believe the Zombie argument by contrasting it with Cartesian Dualism and finally this essay will draw a conclusion that will state whether the Zombie Argument succeeds in falsifying Cartesian Dualism. Cartesian Dualism is Descartes’ concept of dualism which states that physical and mental events belong to two different substance; the mind is immaterial and the body is material and all people possess this dual nature “I thought of the Queen and I saluted” there is the mental I and the physical I who does the act of saluting (Blackburn, 1999: 51). Cartesian Dualism states that minds are not in space, they are not subject to the laws of physics and most importantly minds are private- only I can be directly aware of the state and events of my mind (Blackburn, 199: 50).
This argument then presents a problem if minds are immaterial and private then we are left to understand, according to Dualism, that we are only aware of our own minds and existence ‘cogito ergo sum’ and not other people’s minds because minds are private and immaterial. Therefore according to Cartesian Dualism, in this case, one can conclude that one is the only one who exists.
This conclusion from Cartesian Dualism leaves it vulnerable to an objection from the Zombie Argument. The Zombie problem which is the problem with other minds presented to Cartesian Dualism is that philosophical zombies look and act like human beings and are they cannot be told apart from human beings physically, but if one opens a philosophical zombie’s brain they find that the zombie’s brain functions exactly like a humans but Zombie’s are not conscious- they do not have the ghost in their machines (Blackburn, 1999:53). A question is presented to Cartesian Dualism that how do you know that people around us are not philosophical zombies? How can we tell and know that other people are conscious.
The Cartesian Dualists states that mental events are private and that only you have direct cognisant access of your mind and processes of the mind- therefore other people do not have access to your mind and your mental events. If Cartesian Dualism is true then we never know that other people have minds, how can we know other people have minds? The Zombie argument as an objection to Cartesian Dualism states that if Cartesian Dualism is true then we do not know that other people have minds because minds are immaterial and private things, but we do can know that other people have minds. So, Cartesian Dualism is false. Premise one of the Zombie argument states if Cartesian Dualism were true then we could not know that other people have minds.
If minds are immaterial and do not exist in space then it would be tricky to say they do or do not exist for other people because according to Descartes we can only be certain of our own existence and not anything else outside ourselves- for all we know the external world could all be an illusion. Therefore one can trust that because one thinks one exists; this leaves each of us with his/her own mind (Blackburn, 1999: 49). Premise two states that we can and do know that other people have minds, this can be based on the interactions we have with other people.
The fact that someone else can love you back and you can feel it makes it possible that they are connected to your mind in the mental realm which can only mean that they do have a mind. Based on the fact that it is difficult to conceptualise that one may be the only existent being makes it open to believe that one is not the only one existent- other people do exists and therefore they have minds. Premise two therefore is valid which diminishes what is presented in premise one about Cartesian Dualism that we can never know that other people have minds. Premise three therefore lawfully, following from premise one and two that with the validity presented in previous premises, states that Cartesian Dualism is false.
The reason why it can be believed that the Zombie argument is true is that we can know that other people have minds based on experiences, having mutual feelings as other people and same reactions as other people. This shows that they are conscious and they do have minds because their reactions are triggered by their mental events which determine how they should react.
Another reason to believe the Zombie argument (Cartesian Dualism is false). If the Zombie responds in a similar manner as a non-Zombie responds to the world, succeeds and fails the same way as a non-Zombie, mourns the same pain and laughs at the same humorous events as the non-Zombie (Blackburn, 1999: 57) therefore it can be concluded that Cartesian Dualism is not true because it states other people do not have minds because we never know other people have minds. Nevertheless, this conclusion of the Zombie argument can be rebutted by the Argument by Analogy by Cartesian Dualists and Dualist could simply just reject premise two from the Zombie Argument and state that we cannot know that other people have minds, but it can still be reasonably believed that other people do have minds which is not a strong argument (Blackburn, 1999: 54). As a result this leaves the Zombie argument with one considerably sensible argument which is the Argument by Analogy from Cartesian Dualism.
The Argument by Analogy by Cartesian Dualists against the Zombie Argument states that other people have brains and bodies and their behaviours are sometimes similar to mine. Being that I have a mind, and other human beings are like me in one case they have to be like me in this case, therefore other human beings have minds. An example of Argument by Analogy that Blackburn gives is the beetle in the box (Blackburn, 1999: 55). The problem with the Argument by Analogy is that firstly it is an inductive argument and the problem with inductive arguments is that one has to have made countless observations before assuming that what applies in one case applies to all other cases. The Argument by Analogy assumes that other human beings have minds and are not Zombies- it tries to liken an individual’s experiences to other people’s experiences which is not reliable.
The Argument by Analogy can be seen as a bad inductive argument because from Cartesian Dualism we know we cannot access other people’s consciousness but we can only have direct awareness of our minds; if that is so then if we make an observation inductively we will be essentially just literally observing our own minds because we cannot literally observe other minds. We do not have access to other minds, therefore the Argument by Analogy falsely observes other minds because if minds are immaterial and do not exist in space then we do not know that other people have minds. The Argument by Analogy cannot be based on an observation of one’s own mind and an assumption of observations of other minds because factually we cannot access other people’s minds. This leaves the Cartesian Dualist defence by the Argument of Analogy against the Zombie argument very weak, because the Zombie Argument presents validity the fact that we can conceptualised Zombies makes it a possibility that they do exist.
This brings us back to premise one of the Zombie Argument against Cartesian Dualism that if Cartesian Dualism is true then we cannot know that other people have minds- in itself Cartesian Dualism presents contradicts by first stating that minds are private then later in the Argument by Analogy it states that we can observe that other people have minds. If the premises within the Cartesian Dualism arguments and its defences (Argument by Analogy) contradict each other then it leaves the whole argument feeble and falsifiable (Blackburn, 1999: 55).
Based on the weakness of the Cartesian Dualist argument and the Argument by Analogy- it can be concluded that the problem of other minds (Zombie Argument) is stronger and succeeds in falsifying Cartesian Dualism. This essay has explained what Cartesian Dualism is and explained the objection to it (the Zombie Argument). This essay has also highlighted the objection to the Zombie argument by dualist (the argument by analogy) and proven how this argument is inductive and serves as a contradiction to what it is defending leaving the Zombie argument strong and somehow is sound in comparison to Cartesian Dualism.
Blackburn, S. 1999. Think. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. Chapman, D. February 27, 2013. Lecture from Lecture slides.