Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2003
Brandeis University Web Stite

The Zombie

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

The Zombie Possibility:

Zombies look like you. Well, not exactly like you, but like you and the people you know look.

They have eyes and ears and noses and hands and feet and behave more or less just like the rest of us. They play ball and go swimming and laugh and cry and get all stuffed up when they come down with the flu.

If you opened a Zombie brain, you would find it functions just like the brains you know or, for that matter, the most prominent neurosurgeons in the world happen to know.

If a Zombie falls down and bruises himself or herself, he or she will say "ouch" just as you might expect a person to cry out under those circumstances.

But a Zombie is not conscious.

Because Zombies look and act just like you and me, there is no way of telling which one of us are Zombies. A Zombie might be sitting next to you or you might, just might, have a Zombie for a room-mate.

Indeed, if you think about it, this Zombie-possibility could really begin to raise a rather disturbing set of possibilities. You cannot be sure about the person next to you or, if you think about it, anyone else for that matter.

All of us may be Zombies except you.

Consciousness might be an extremely rare occurrence in a complex body-brain system such as we have. And perhaps you and you alone are the only one among us who is NOT a Zombie. We all grunt, giggle, laugh and cry but we are not conscious.

You behave in the same way at given moments. You, too, grunt, giggle, laugh and cry, but when you do, you also have certain conscious experiences which accompany your behavior.

We do not.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Surely, we are not Zombies, neither you nor me.
None of us are Zombies or so most of us think.
But how do you know you are NOT a Zombie?
And how do you know that your room-mate
and/or best friend is NOT a Zombie?



[PHIL S-7] [Syllabus] [Handouts] [Home] [Bio] [CV] [PHIL DEPT.] [E-MAIL]

Send comments to: Andreas Teuberr
Last Modified: 03/26/02
Instructor's Toolkit
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College