Are We More Than Just the Physical? Philosophers Argue over Zombies

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Zombies are a big part of our pop culture. They are both a cathartic exploration of what it means to be human and a vehicle for social commentary. The word “zombie” comes from Haitian folklore and refers to a corpse animated by witchcraft. Facing a horrid life, 17th-century Haitian slaves, who worked on sugar plantations in the French-owned Louisiana area, often considered suicide but were afraid to be trapped in their bodies, wandering the Earth as soulless shells.

In philosophy, this idea of a hypothetical creature that looks like a regular human but has no conscious experiences is known as a “philosophical zombie” or a “p-zombie”.

Why do philosophers need zombies?

The concept is kind of a mind trick. Imagine a being that looks and even talks like a human. It goes through all the normal motions of a human and yet has no consciousness. And you would have no idea that it is not like you.

According to philosophers like David Chalmers, p-zombies are an argument against physicalism – the school of thought that everything that makes us human is ultimately derived from our physical characteristics.

Physicalism is based on the success of science in exploring the physical world. According to physicalists, we are essentially intricate arrangements of atoms. Behaviorists, a subset of physicalists, maintain that even all mental processes – thoughts, desires, etc – are just responses to the behaviors of others.

If a p-zombie that is exactly like us, except for the sense of self and consciousness, is possible to logically conceive, then it could support dualism, an alternative view that sees the world consisting of not just the…

Bees Have Emotions and Moods. But Do They Have Feelings and Consciousness?

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The honeybee is in deep trouble. Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a condition whose cause isn’t known, has occurred in 42% of colonies within the US, since 2015. CCD occurs when worker bees mysteriously disappear, leaving a queen and her young with no one to tend to them. Invasive species, the loss of habitat, gut parasites, certain pesticides, and other causes have been considered, but nothing is definitive yet.

Research is ongoing. The Obama administration did enact some measures to help protect bee populations which so far remain in place. But they won’t be enough. Without knowing what’s causing CCD, there can be no definitive plan in place to reverse it.

That’s a serious blow to our agricultural industry and could have disastrous consequences for our food supply. 70% of food bearing plants are pollinated by bees. Harvard scientists have a technological fix in place. They’ve developed a type of micro-robot to replace these crucial pollinators, nicknamed robobees. In truth, no one really knows if they can do the job.

What’s more, who will pay for the additional service, which nature normally provides for free? Most likely, the cost will be passed along to the consumer. That means higher food prices, at a time when more and more jobs are disappearing, and wages continue to come back at a crawling pace.

To combat the loss of the honeybee population and perhaps preserve their supply chain and mascot, Cheerios has launched a campaign called #BringBacktheBees. They’ve partnered with a seed company, and have already given away 100 million wildflower seeds to interested parties in the general public. By reestablishing the bees vanishing habitat, they hope to bring these insects back from the brink. Though they’ve already reached their goal, they still have more seeds to give away, should you be interested.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) in France. Getty Images.

Perhaps we’d hear a far greater outcry and more would be invested, if the problem was packaged in a way that pulls at the heartstrings, rather than engages the intellect. Usually, we think of invertebrates as incapable of advanced emotions. Some of the latest experiments with bees however, are challenging this assumption.

These prodigious pollinators show a remarkably advanced understanding of patterns, can anticipate future ones, be taught behaviors, and we now have evidence that they display a range of emotions, even moods. Today, the bee crisis is packaged thusly—these service-providing drones are being snuffed out by a sterilized acronym. Instead, why not portray it as fellow, sentient beings suffering from an epidemic? This is Ebola for bees, people!


See What Over 1000 Quora Users Around The World Would Recommend If You Can Only Read Once In Your Life

When asked to pick only one book to recommend to someone, most people would agree that it is quite a difficult task. Firstly, because there are so many great pieces that it seems unfair to pick just one. Secondly, definition of a great book varies from person to person. Yet, when asked what would be the one they would recommend if someone could only read once in their life, most Quora users opted for books that greatly influenced their thinking and ideas about life. Go through the list and see if you agree and maybe pick one or two for your personal library.

1. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

The book explores lives, works and ideas of logician Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer Jonathan Sebastian Bach. Using puns, metaphors and puzzles to connect concepts of mathematics, symmetry and intelligence, the book actually explores the notion of human cognition and consciousness. The value of the book is in its ability to take you on a journey of exploring your abilities to self-reflect, and it doesn’t require a scientist or artist of any sort to realize the universality of laws of our consciousness and perception.

2. Best of Quora (2010 – 2012)

Great book that covers 18 sections of creative, funny, practical and intelligent answers to all sorts of questions. A book about everything for everyone. “It’s less about the “right answer” and more about perceptions and experiences.” Says one of the reviewers.

3. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

Written as a means to fix the emotional scars that surgeon Maxwell Maltz couldn’t help his patients with by surgical procedure, Psycho-Cybernetics is one of the corner-stones of self-help programs. Even though…