Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-54vk6 Total loading time: 0.41 Render date: 2022-08-08T20:23:29.445Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Zombies and Epiphenomenalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2009

Andrew Bailey*
University of Guelph


ABSTRACT: This paper examines the relationship between the claim that zombies are logically/metaphysically possible and the position that phenomenal consciousness is epiphenomenal. It is often taken that the former entails the latter, and that therefore any implausibility in the notion of conscious epiphenomenalism calls into question the genuine possibility of zombies. Four ways in which the zombist might respond are examined, and I argue that two—those most commonly encountered—are inadequate, but the others—one of which is rarely formulated and the other new—are more forceful. The upshot, nevertheless, is that the zombist may indeed face an unwelcome commitment to conscious epiphenomenalism.

RÉSUMÉ : Cet article porte sur la relation entre l’assertion que les morts-vivants sont une possibilité logique/métaphysique et la position que la conscience des phénomènes est épiphénoménale. On suppose souvent que ceci implique cela, et que, par conséquent, tout caractère non plausible dans la notion de conscience épiphénoménale remet en question la possibilité que des morts-vivants existent vraiment. Suit l’examen de quatre voies ouvertes au zombiste pour formuler une réponse, deux desquelles sont déclarée inadéquates, tandis que les deux autres se révèlent avoir plus de force. Le résultat en est cependant que le zombiste se trouve malgré lui engagé à défendre la conscience épiphénoménale.

Copyright © Canadian Philosophical Association 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aydede, Murat, and Güzeldere, Güven 2001Consciousness, Conceivability Arguments, and Perspectivalism.” Communication & Cognition, 34: 99-122.Google Scholar
Bailey, Andrew 2006Zombies, Epiphenomenalism, and Physicalist Theories of Consciousness.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 36: 481-510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balog, Katalin 1999Conceivability, Possibility, and the Mind-Body Problem.” The Philosophical Review, 108: 497-528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Block, Ned and Stalnaker, Robert 1999Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap.” The Philosophical Review, 108: 1-46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bringsjord, Selmer 1999The Zombie Attack on the Computational Conception of Mind.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59: 41-69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brueckner, Anthony 2001Chalmer’s Conceivability Argument for Dualism.” Analysis, 61: 187-93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chalmers, David J. 1996 The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Chalmers, David J. 1999Materialism and the Metaphysics of Modality.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59: 473-96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chalmers, David J. 2004Imagination, Indexicality, and Intensions.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 68: 182-90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clarke, D. S. 2004 Panpsychism. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
Dennett, Daniel C. 1991 Consciousness Explained. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Dennett, Daniel C. 2001 “The Zombic Hunch: Extinction of an Intuition?” In Philosophy at the New Millenium. Edited by O‘Hear, Anthony. Cambridge University Press, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement: 48, pp. 27-43.Google Scholar
Dietrich, Eric, and Gillies, Anthony 2001Consciousness and the Limits of Our Imagination.” Synthèse, 126: 361-81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dretske, Fred 2003 “How Do You Know You Are Not a Zombie?” In Privileged Access. Edited by Gertler, Brie. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 114.Google Scholar
Frankish, Keith 2007The Anti-Zombie Argument.” The Philosophical Quarterly, 57: 650-66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harnad, Stevan 2001No Easy Way Out.” The Sciences, 41 (2): 36-42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hawthorne, John 2001Advice for Physicalists.” Philosophical Studies, 108: 17-52.Google Scholar
Kim, Jaegwon 2005 Physicalism, Or Something Near Enough. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Kirk, Robert 1999Why There Couldn’t Be Zombies.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. 73: 1-16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirk, Robert 2003 “Zombies.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Scholar
Kirk, Robert 2005 Zombies and Consciousness. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Latham, Noa 2000Chalmers on the Addition of Consciousness to the Physical World.” Philosophical Studies, 98: 71-97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levin, Janet 2002Is Conceptual Analysis Needed for the Reduction of Qualitative States?Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 64: 571-91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levine, Joseph 1998Conceivability and the Metaphysics of Mind.” Noûs, 32: 449-480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levine, Joseph 2001 Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lynch, Michael P. 2004Zombies and the Case of the Phenomenal Pickpocket.” Synthèse, 149: 37-58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagel, Thomas 1998Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem.” Philosophy, 73: 337-52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Papineau, David 2002 Thinking About Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perry, John 2001 Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Polger, Thomas 2000 “Zombies Explained.” In Dennett’s Philosophy. Edited by Ross, D., Brooks, A., and Thompson, D.. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 259-86.Google Scholar
Putnam, Hilary 1999 The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Rosenberg, Gregg 2004 A Place for Consciousness: Probing the Deep Structure of the Natural World. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seager, William 1995Consciousness, Information and Panpsychism.” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2: 272-88.Google Scholar
Searle, John 2004 Mind: A Brief Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Siewert, Charles 1999 The Significance of Consciousness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Skokowski, Paul 2002I, Zombie.” Consciousness and Cognition, 11: 1-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skrbina, David 2007 Panpsychism in the West. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Sommers, Tamler 2002Of Zombies, Color Scientists, and Floating Iron Bars.” Psyche, 8 (22). []Google Scholar
Stalnaker, Robert 2002 “What Is it Like to Be a Zombie?” In Conceivability and Possibility. Edited by Szabó Gendler, Tamar. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 385-400.Google Scholar
Stoljar, Daniel 2001The Conceivability Argument and Two Conceptions of the Physical.” Philosophical Perspectives, 15: 394-413.Google Scholar
Stoljar, Daniel 2006 “Actors and Zombies.” In Content and Modality. Edited by Thomson, J. and Byrne, A.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-17.Google Scholar
Stout, G. F. 1931 Mind and Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Strawson, Galen, et al. 2006 Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? Exeter: Imprint Academic.Google Scholar
Tanney, Julia 2004On the Conceptual, Psychological, and Moral Status of Zombies, Swamp-Beings, and Other ‘Behaviourally Indistinguishable’ Creatures.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 69: 173-86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, Nigel 1998 “Zombie Killer.” In Toward a Science of Consciousness II. Edited by Hameroff, S., Kaszniak, A., and Scott, A.. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 171-77.Google Scholar
Webster, William R. 2006Human Zombies are Metaphysically Impossible.” Synthèse, 151: 297-310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Worley, Sara 2003Conceivability, Possibility and Physicalism.” Analysis, 63: 15-23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yablo, Stephen 1999Concepts and Consciousness.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59: 455-63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Zombies and Epiphenomenalism
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Zombies and Epiphenomenalism
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Zombies and Epiphenomenalism
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *