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  • Publication
    Zombies and their possibilities
    (University College Dublin. Department of Philosophy, 2003)
    This thesis is a critical examination of the basis of some arguments in contemporary philosophy of mind against a materialist view of phenomenal consciousness, as proposed by David Chalmers (1996) in his book The Conscious Mind. I address Chalmers' "zombie" argument in particular, disputing the soundness of the argument itself and its basis, and examining some of the salient concepts involved. I argue that logical possibility claims only carry as much weight as the background framework against which the claim was made. I propose therefore that Chalmers only succeeds in showing the epistemic possibility of zombies (i.e. they only seem logically possible given our current ignorance in the area) and this, I contend, is not strong enough to refute materialist claims with respect to consciousness. In addition I try to show that he does not adequately answer objections to his argument from a posteriori considerations since I argue that logical entailment of a given phenomenon by its (physical) basis is generally something that only begins to emerge during the process of discovery of what that phenomenon is a posteriori . I explore Chalmers' notion of a zombie and propose that it suffers from a basic incoherence which arguably places a question mark over its logical possibility. I also query Chalmers' claim that the essence of phenomenal consciousness is not explainable in terms of function/structure and, consequently, in physical terms. I suggest that by analysing our mental life into phenomenal and psychological aspects whereby the latter is associated with mental functioning, Chalmers already prejudices the question of whether there could be a function of phenomenal consciousness. Arguably experience may be essential for our kind of functioning and may be at least partially so explainable.