A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical entity that looks and behaves exactly like a human (often stipulated to be atom-by-atom identical to a human) but is not actually conscious: they are often said lack qualia or phenomena consciousness. A p-zombie is as likely as anyone else to ask, "When I see red, do I see the same color that you see when you see red?" but they have no real experience of the color red; the zombie's speech can be explained in some other terms which do not require them to have real experiences. The zombie thought experiment is purported to show that consciousness cannot be reduced to merely physical things: our universe is purported to perhaps have special "bridging laws" which evoke a mind into existence when there are atoms in a suitable brain-like configuration.
Critics deny the possibility of zombies: if a p-zombie is atom-by-atom identical to a human being in our universe, then our speech can be explained by the same mechanisms as the zombie's, and yet it would seem awfully peculiar that our words and actions would have one entirely materialistic explanation, but also, furthermore, our universe happens to contain exactly the right bridging law such that our experiences are meaningful and our consciousness syncs up with what our merely physical bodies do. It's too much of a stretch: Occam's razor dictates that we favor a monistic universe with one uniform set of laws.
Supporters use the apparent conceivability of p-zombies to illustrate the fact that no-one can explain how phenomenal consciousness arises from matter. P-zombies may not be possible, but they seem possible because we do not know of a set of laws that make consciousness inevitable in some entities, but impossible in others.
A third view denies the existence of qualia, and therefore maintains that "we are all zombies" (Daniel Dennet)
- Zombies! Zombies?
- Zombie Responses
- The Generalized Anti-Zombie Principle
- Zombies: The Movie
- GAZP vs. GLUT
- The Zombie Preacher of Somerset by Yvain