Science

Zombie Robots and Reductive Functionalism

Posted 23 Jan 2009 at 17:49 UTC (updated 24 Jan 2009 at 06:36 UTC) by steve Share This

For those who never tire of listening to philosophers argue whether qualia are real or imagined, and whether silicon machines can experience the same qualia as meat machines, you'll enjoy the latest essay from Dr. Jacques Mallah entitled, The Partial Brain Thought Experiment: Partial Consciousness and its Implications (PDF format). Basically, the essay is a defense of physicalism and the idea that consciousness is non-centralized. For those who aren't up on their philosophy, here's what you need to know for this paper to make some sense: Physicalism is the idea that things are made out of stuff (matter and energy) and work the way they do because of the properties of the stuff from which they're made. Functionalism means about the same thing (depending on who you ask). Physicalists spend a lot of time arguing with dualists. Dualists believe either that things are made partially of real stuff and partially of "mental" stuff; or that things are made of real stuff but certain arrangements of real stuff, like meat, have (unreal/non-physical/magical) powers that give rise to mental properties. When these folks argue, the thought experiments frequently involve speculations about robots and other types of zombies (zombies are agents who dualists believe can't experience qualia, not undead agents who hunger for human brains).

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