My Zombie is More Conscious than Your Zombie

zombiesYou’ve heard it before – the old philosopher’s saw about zombies: physically in-tact beings on the outside, unconscious voids on the inside.  Poke it with a stick and it won’t feel anything (because by definition it’s an insensate being), yet it’ll react as if it does.  “Ouch” it might say, and then return to staring at you blankly and drooling…ogling your brain.

To play along, of course, you have to indulge the theoretical possibility of a zombie existing. Of the many perfectly good reasons to do this, only one generally matters to philosophy of mind inquirers, and that’s to challenge a trio of isms: physicalism, behaviorism, and the baron of the ball, materialism. 

Since a zombie would embody human characteristics indistinguishable from your neighbor (with the exception of the severe jaundice and putrid odor), proponents of zombieism argue that  physical-behavioral-material facts cannot unequivocally account for consciousness. The presence of the zombie, in effect, separates mental and physical states, and provides additional information apart from the physical facts, which physicalism cannot account for.  

To no end has this argument been stretched, including the famous argument of philosopher David Chalmers about an entire zombie world theoretically existing (a world in which facts outside the physical–i.e. whatever is making the zombies tick–exist and can’t be explained by the trio of isms). 

You may be surprised to know, as was I, that there is in fact more than one theoretical zombie model available to zombie2would-be inquirers.  One could be a behavioral zombie, which is the standard sort (often called P-zombies) that looks like a human but isn’t conscious. Or one could be a neurological zombie, which looks human and has a human brain, but still isn’t conscious. Or one could be a soulless zombie, which looks like a human, has a brain, but lacks, wait for it, a soul (as defined by said inquirer).

Against the volumes that have been written around these thoughtless, bad smelling protagonists, there is but one irrefutable response … zombies don’t exist.  That pretty much sums it up.  We just decide not to indulge the fantasy, however captivating it may sound to live in zombie world, and that’s the end of the argument. Sorry, no zombies.

BUT, for the sake of argument, what if you take your standard fare zombie motif and flip it on its head?  That to me is a lot more interesting, because then you have something that actually can exist.

P-zombie, meet I-zombie — aka, the inverse zombie.

He or she appears once or twice out of every 1000 anesthetized patients undergoing surgery.  Imagine the possibility of being one of them — you have been intubated (preventing speech), paralyzed (preventing movement), and narcotized (minimizing response to stimuli), and yet you are aware that surgery is being performed on you.

That’s what this study delved into — “anesthesia awareness” — the I-zombie phenomenon, not a trip most would volunteer to take.  I think I’d rather visit zombie world. 

By the way, you can bone up on your zombie science here.



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13 responses to “My Zombie is More Conscious than Your Zombie

  1. Sophie

    hi,my band and i saw this pic,and we think it would be a good logo,is ther any chance we could maybe be able to gain rights to use the picture?

  2. A. Morisson


    Great post – although I take issue with the statement that Zombies aren’t real. Just wait…

    Check out my Zombie research blog at:

    Hope you like it, and keep up the good work!

  3. Superb Article, I am subscribing to your RSS Feed so I can stay up to date with your articles.Although people have new consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, a surprising amount of people still get their SNES Console out of the attic to play on it. I honestly think that you can never beat playing a game such as the original Super Mario Kart for hours on end!With the expensive prices of the Xbox 360 you can always pick up a Cheap SNES Console!

  4. Well for all sake a zombie is possoble, mad cow disease is a small form of zombie, one bad Hamburger and we’re all done.

  5. Zombies are no way real i mean are you guys really think that a zombie is real? Somebody just made it up as a horror film nothing else no info to tell you they are real just a horror movie.

  6. I agree with you I mean if they were real then they would have happened already plus how is someone going to turn into a zombie NEVER so people a listen to me THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A ZOMBIE COMING TO LIFE ITS A MOVIE!

  7. what about a advanced rabies . its not that far stretched rabies virus could evolve you never know.

  8. Romero

    @Kenny and Jenny and all others who don’t know about the TRUE zombie, research the monster and voodoo. Haitian zombies were real, and many speculate are still around today. it is possible to have a being that looks human, but has no thought of its own other than what the master tells it to do. These people were pronounced LEGALLY DEAD, but walk around until they are snapped out of their catonic state.

  9. i tthink that this is weird


  11. mitch

    it has been proven as real disease cant remember what its called… but it dies to quickly for scientists to test on O_O’

  12. Ripper

    You have not looked into the Possiblity of Zombies created by other means. So dont think of them as Walking Dead more of a Virus Infected. Some Virus that would produce an Enraged and Psychotic mindset. This combined with a congenital insensitivity to pain with Anhidrosis, or CIPA. With the Virus changing and being transmitted by Blood or Body Fluids. This would produce a Zombie Like individual and is theoretically possible. So if you diviate from the Rise from the Grave type Zombie it is in the Realm of Possibility.

  13. Pingback: A Note on Soulless Zombies « Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon

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