Let’s try a thought experiment (I don’t actually believe this, but it’ll be interesting to entertain the idea):
You wake up in the morning. You have thoughts, feelings, emotions. You know, at a level impossible to question, that you exist as a thinking being. If you try to question that you are a thinking being, you fail, because in questioning that you are thinking, you are thinking, because questioning is a kind of thinking. Thus, you must be a thinking being.
You see your neighbors, your friends, and you think that they, too, are probably thinking beings.
But they’re not.
See, a few of your friends have been replaced with perfect replicas of a human being: mechanical dolls. They are machines made out of the same organic material you are, so cunningly created that they could not possibly be distinguished for an organic human like you. Moreover, their brains have been woven out of the same neurons, but there’s a difference:
While they react properly to all stimuli, due to a very sophisticated program, they never have thoughts, feelings, or emotions of their own. They only seem to. They see you make a frowning face, and the program goes, “if expression(other) == frown :: expression(self) == sympathy.” But they don’t feel it.
Could such a world exist? Could there be a world in which some people have been replaced with physically and behaviorally indistinguishable replicas of real people? I’m not asking if you think we live in such a world (I hope you don’t), but could such a world exist, or would such a world be self-contradictory?
It seems, to me, that such a world could exist. (Even though it doesn’t)
What does that imply?
It implies that internal experience is real, otherwise, the appearance of internal experience and the actuality of internal experience would, by Leibniz law, be the same thing. But they don’t seem to be. It rubs against at least my intuition that they could be.
Do you agree?
Yes, this post was an excuse to bring up not only the philosophical zombie, but remind you of this wonderful song from the 90s.