If mental states are functional states, there couldn't be zombies, i.e., something functionally equivalent to you but which yet doesn't have qualia (a sense of "what it's like" to be you... an inner life). Yet Block claims that there could be such zombies: for example, a functional duplicate of you whose components are actually all the citizens of China acting according to signals broadcast by satellites according to algorithmic rules. Even if the resulting system acts like you, it obviously isn't conscious.
Chalmers argues that if you buy this story about functional zombies being physically possible, you'd then need to explain the experiences of a creature half way between you and the zombie (like if you replaced your neurons with little circuits one by one, each of which exactly duplicated the function of that neuron), but you can't: If you have an experience of being red, and the zombie (even though it claims to have such an experience) doesn't, would the half-you/half-zombie have half an experience? A pale pink experience? A washed-out grey experience? A dimming experience? Or is there some point at which the lights suddenly go off, so the halfway point would be equivalent to either the before or after depending on where that point is? Chalmers thinks that none of the possible descriptions makes sense, so Block's argument doesn't work and functionalism is left standing. What do you think?
Do you hate weird thought experiments like these like Seth does? Do you think like Wes that Block and Chalmers are really talking past each other, that Block is only attacking reductive functionalism, and Chalmers's argument only succeeds in defending nonreductive functionalism (i.e., function and mentality are correlated, or more specifically supervenient, but not actually one and the same)? Do you think like Mark that this is a totally separate issue than the hard problem (which Block and Chalmers both agree is a real problem that functionalism doesn't solve), and so the other guys should stop dragging the conversation back to that every single episode? Or are you like Dylan who didn't show up to this episode?
Go start at our first philosophy of mind episode of this series if you want to understand everything here.
Image by Solomon Grundy.
Explore why and how we take in the media we do through Mark's new Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast at prettymuchpop.com.