Master of Arts
Date of Defense
In this paper I argue that the zombie conceivability argument, as developed by David Chalmers, is unsound. My primary contribution in the paper is a critique of the claim that zombies are positively conceivable. I argue that phenomenal experience (that which zombies purportedly lack) is not something we can imagine; it is only something we can have. We can only imagine the contents of experience, and in doing so we have a new phenomenal experience of the imagined contents. Without being able to imagine phenomenal experience we have no way to determine whether a creature we imagine has or lacks phenomenal experience. Therefore, we have no justification for claiming that zombies are positively conceivable. Chalmers also argues, however, that the negative conceivability of zombies is sufficient for his argument. In response to this claim, I defer to an argument given by Keith Frankish that invokes the notion of anti-zombies (creatures that are physically identical to us, with no non-physical properties, and yet have phenomenal experience). Frankish argues that a parallel argument can be given that goes from the conceivability of an anti-zombie, to the possibility of an anti-zombie, to the truth of materialism. I argue that, without the positive conceivability of zombies, there is no reason to think that zombies (rather than anti-zombies) are negatively conceivable.
Myers, Blake Austin, "Imagination and Phenomenal Experience" (2008). Theses. 223.