Answer this question, and answer it truthfully: are you a zombie? Not the kind of zombie you see on The Walking Dead or shoot in Call of Duty. No, the zombies I’m talking about are far less conspicuous. They may live and breathe among us, indistinguishable from normal people. In fact, you may be surrounded by zombies right now.
For centuries philosophers have wrestled with the mutant and zombie possibilities. When not boring high school juniors, they have tried to figure out if we share the same conscious experience, perceive the world in the same way. Have you ever wondered if other people see colors the same way you do? These hypotheses occupy a similar vein of thought.
You know you are conscious. You experience the world with a certain awareness of what goes on around you. But how do you know that other people possess this same sentience? Philosophers call this the zombie possibility. For all you know every other person could be a zombie, an unconscious being that only appears to have human feelings. They may laugh at a joke or wince when they stub their toe, but these reactions are just mechanical responses. Though they behave as if they feel emotion, they have no conscious experience whatsoever. Zombies are empty shells of human beings indistinguishable from the rest of us.
Mutants differ from zombies in that they are sentient. However, their conscious experience is quite unlike your own. While they appear to share similar feelings and sensations, they perceive them in different ways. For example, a mutant would grimace and say ouch when she received a paper cut, but instead of pain she might hear someone playing a C on a clarinet. She would assure you that she was in significant discomfort, but for her this discomfort would be the musical note. Similarly, when listening to a song she might feel searing pain but smile and tap her foot to the rhythm with pleasure. A mutant’s understanding of emotion would mirror yours, but her experience of it would be entirely different.
The trouble with the mutant and zombie possibilities is that they are untestable. You have no way of determining whether everybody else in this world is a zombie. As far as I know, all of you could be mutants. Though the hypotheses are extremely unlikely (some argue even physiologically impossible) due to our shared evolution as a species, they still provide some interesting food for thought. Next time you tune in to your favorite zombie thriller, remember that some those unconscious beings might be in the other room.
So what do you think of the mutant and zombie possibilities? Do mutants and zombies exist? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday!
Comment question of the week
Are mutants and zombies real?