Category Archives: c3665406-1ad5-47c8-b5ff-ffa67af642a2

Of Zombies VI: The Rise and Fall of the Zombie Threat

By way of Boing Boing, the io9 site has created a chart correlating the production of zombie movies with social upheavals in America and the world.  The inference one is expected to make is that Zombie movies are a symptom of unrest, either as a mirror to them or as an attempt at escapist self-therapy.

This narrative follows well known pop-analyses of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a response to Cold War fears and George A. Romero’s Living Dead movies as a reflection of mind-numbing American consumerism.

What the chart reminds me most of, however, is Alan Wolfe’s book The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Threat which begins with a quote from Ronald Reagan:

“Let’s not delude ourselves,” Ronald Reagan said in 1981.  “The Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on.  If they weren’t engaged in this game of dominoes, there wouldn’t be any hot spots in the world.”  Not since the cold war began, and perhaps never before in American history, has an administration come to power with as insistently hostile an attitude toward the Soviet Union as that of Ronald Reagan.

Wolfe’s thesis is ultimately an inversion of the Zombie = unrest argument.  Wolfe’s book was immensely popular in political science departments in the 80’s because it attempted to demonstrate that the American perception of the Soviet Threat moved independently of the “actual” Soviet Threat at any point in the 50 year history of the Cold War.  He argued for the lack of correlation between the perception and the reality of our fears.  Bear in mind that this was a welcome argument in a time when the left still suffered from mal foi following Solzhenitsyn’s publication of  the third volume of The Gulag Archipelago. The ground for this sort of argument may also have been prepared by Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (claiming that our perception of science as a continuous progression does not conform to the historical reality) which had achieved a broad cross-discipline appeal by the time that Wolfe’s thesis came out. 

Today Kuhn is mostly remembered for burdening us with the phrase “paradigm shift,” though in his day he provided the model (perhaps unintentionally) for a broad range of arguments that attempted to demonstrate that reality is not what it seems, but instead is something constructed (a word that naturally entails that we must at some point de-construct it, of course) by social forces.  Reality is a manifold of social constructs.

The Zombie literature is interesting, among other things, because it attempts to go the other way.  People who write about the horror genre are always tempted to take what falls clearly within the realm of subjectivity and personal taste and find some sort of correlate for it in the “real” world.  This is true of many fringe interests, for instance sci-fi, pop music, prime-time television, software programming.  We all want to find deep meaning in the things we recognize as subjectively meaningful for us.

The summum bonum would certainly be achieved if each of our personal interests were acknowledged as universally meaningful.  Why shouldn’t we spell words the way each of us prefers to, or use grammar in the way we think best?  Why shouldn’t zombie movies have the same cultural status as the novels of Dostoevsky?  Why shouldn’t Ayn Rand be found next to Rousseau at the local book store?  If a thing has meaning for us, shouldn’t this meaning be reflected in the world?

The notion that the meaning of a name is the thing in the world that it points to (its referent) was originally formulated by J.S. Mill and is known as Mill’s Theory of Names.  It is also sometimes called the “Fido”-Fido theory, for obvious reasons.  Fido, in turn, is a 2006 movie about the efforts of a small band of survivors to reconstruct society along 1950’s lines following a major social upheaval.  The social upheaval, of course, is a zombie epidemic.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Ten Questions for the Candidates

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We all want our candidates to answer more questions, but it’s hard to figure out what we really want to know from them.  Sometimes it seems like we want to gauge their knowledge of world affairs — and so they are asked social studies questions — “What is the capital of the Republic of Georgia?”  Sometimes we want to know about their experience — and so they are asked what they would do in a certain situation.  Ultimately we want to know if they are smart “like us” or in the least “like us” and so odd questions will be thrown into various debates such as “Who is your favorite philosopher?” and “Which is your favorite book of the Bible?”

These questions typically misfire.  Very few politicians are like Adlai Stevenson.  Whatever it is that makes them good at what they do, which typically involves raising money and cutting backroom deals, we simply don’t have questions for.  Lacking the right questions, on the other hand, may be considered as license to ask any question.  Here are some of mine:

1. How do you celebrate June 16th?

2. What memories do madeleines evoke for you?

3. Do you typically take the road less traveled, or the other one?

4. Would you explain the difference between the ‘ontic’ and the ‘ontological’, and how this distinction affects your daily life?

5. Can Virtue be taught?

6. How many wives of Henry the Eighth can you name?  and which ones bore future rulers of England?

7. Explain the difference between descriptivist and prescriptivist grammar, and apply the difference to something that has nothing to do with grammar.

8. Describe at least five of Martin Luther’s 95 tenets; expand on any you strongly agree or disagree with.

9. Explain the difference between the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems of the world, and why it matters.

10.  Besides beds, what was the chief source of income at Peter Coffin’s Inn?

 

Coincidentally, these ten questions also capture the ten main categories of knowledge that our presidential candidates are expected to exemplify or demonstrate some expertise in, namely:

1. Patriotism 2. Historical knowledge 3. Experience 4. Wonkiness 5. Family values 6. Foreign Affairs 7. Rhetorical skill 8. Faith 9. Science 10. Economics

Zombies V: I am not a Straussian

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The one thing I can’t stand about Straussians is that they are always trying to deny that they are Straussians.  I recently debated a friend on a private message board in which he tried to deny this very thing, and I just let him, because every attempt he made to disprove that he was a Straussian only confirmed the fact that he was, indeed, a Straussian.

It is only Straussians who feel the need to deny they are Straussians, while the rest of us are simply never accused of such a thing.

Robert Kagan, a few years ago, actually wrote an article ironically entitled I Am Not A Straussian, in which he tries to subtly extricate himself from being labeled (outed?) as a Straussian.  He is amusing about it, and carefully avoids a full denunciation of all Straussians, as many Straussians denying that they are Straussians are apt to do, while also trying to make clear why (wink, wink) he isn’t one.  It is an effort that would have made Leo Strauss himself proud.

As best I can recall, their biggest point of contention was whether Plato was just kidding in The Republic. Bloom said he was just kidding. I later learned that this idea–that the greatest thinkers in history never mean what they say and are always kidding–is a core principle of Straussianism. My friend, the late Al Bernstein, also taught history at Cornell. He used to tell the story about how one day some students of his, coming directly from one of Bloom’s classes, reported that Bloom insisted Plato did not mean what he said in The Republic. To which Bernstein replied: "Ah, Professor Bloom wants you to think that’s what he believes. What he really believes is that Plato did mean what he said.

But it is in this cleverness, of course, that we can always find them out, these Straussians.  They are always engaged in perpetuating the Noble Lie, as Plato called it.

In truth, Straussians are more or less Zombies, and all Zombies are ultimately Straussians.  They have the vague family resemblance to human beings, but underneath they are motivated by a single desire, be that world domination, academic influence, or human flesh.

Which is why the cleverness of Straussians can be so misleading.  How can a mere ideologue, you may ask, evince the subtlety and depth that Straussians sometimes seem to exhibit?  But the answer is very simple, and if you have ever studied Descartes’ Parrot, it should be very obvious.  A creature that spends its whole life merely imitating, parroting if you will, the surface appearance of deep people, can certainly fool you eventually into thinking that it possesses such depth.  Isn’t this the whole point of the Turing Test?

The rest of us spend all of our efforts trying to appear not so deep, really.  It tends to confuse, and it can put people off.  There is nothing worse, I have discovered, than trying to fill a lull in a business meeting by bringing up the distinction between nature and convention as something essential to understanding ancient Greek thought.

Which is why this analysis of Will Smith’s remake of I Am Legend as a Straussian parable, on the blog Biomusicosophy, is so refreshing — though I have my own suspicions that the author may himself be either a Straussian or a Zombie.   The author hangs his entire analysis on the particularly Straussian (though admittedly also Masonic) distinction between the esoteric and the exoteric.

The film has two sections and two audiences. I Am Legend is truly two films. Section One, the esoteric section, runs from the beginning of the film to the moment when Will Smith goes on a suicide mission after his dog has died and he has lost all hope. At the moment when the infected almost devour him, there is a bright light. This light represents a few things, one of them being the transition into Section Two of the film. Section Two, the exoteric section, runs from the moment after the bright light until the end of the movie, when the Brazilian woman and the child make it to the safe zone in Vermont. My thesis is this: Section One of the film is for philosophers, Section Two of the film is for the masses.

It’s brilliant stuff, really, though, as Robert Kagan suggests (and he would know, being a Straussian) a real Straussian interpretation would invert the analysis to demonstrate that it is Section two, with all of the brutal action scenes, which is the true esoteric teaching, while the first part, trying to redeem mankind, is the part intended for mass consumption.

Not that I would know.

Zombies III

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As reported at Slashdot, Archaeology magazine has an online article about evidence of zombie attacks in ancient Egypt, circa 3000 B.C.  According to the article, written with a light hand, one suspects, the Palette of Narmer (above), found at Hierakonpolis, depicts this early encounter with the undead:

On the other hand, in support of the earlier date, some have claimed that the famous Palette of Narmer (ca. 3000 B.C.), also from Hierakonpolis, far from recording a victory in the war of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, is instead a celebration of the successful repulse of a zombie attack. Although we tend to focus on the verso where the king is shown smiting a kneeling enemy, it is the other side that is actually the front. It is the side with the depression for mixing the cosmetics for adorning the cult statue, and so it would seem that the scene of the king marching in procession to view a pile of decapitated bodies is the really important message.

An interview with Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide,  conducted in April of 2006, provides a more detailed reconstruction of the evidence for man’s ongoing war with the zombies:

The theory of “Undead Evolutionary Influence” has many supporters in the paleoanthropological community. Louis Leakey even mentioned it in his ground-breaking paper “Lucy Fights a Ghoul.” However, in order to test this theory, one would have to clone our pre-human ancestors, then infect them with the zombie virus.

All discussions of these various zombie related resources tend to include the phrase tongue in cheek — a term I am not familiar with — which suggests the visceral experience of a zombie devouring its own tongue in the early stages of zombification.  Whatever the true origin of this term, it is clear that zombies and tongue in cheek will indelibly be linked in my mind.

Excursis on Deception

 


The Renaissance theories about eyes and pneuma depend on a natural relation between the eyes and the underlying physical world.  For instance, a person could not give someone the evil eye simply by painting their own eyes with pigment.  The cause of the affliction must lie in the nature of the person who passes on this curse, and not in some extraneous cause.   Similarly, the eyes of the beloved must really transmit something of her soul through love’s arrows in order to ensorcle the lover.  In this sense, pneumatic theories are natural theories.


In my readings for the preceding blog, however, I came across a curious origin for the name of the belladonna plant.  According to some sources, the belladonna, an herb of the nightshade family, was once used as a cosmetic to dilate women’s pupils, which was believed to make them more attractive to men.  The belladonna’s name, consequently, is ascribed to its association with beautiful women.




Deh, bella donna, che a’ raggi d’amore
ti scaldi, s’i’ vo’ credere a’ sembianti
che soglion esser testimon del core

Ah, fair lady, who warmest thyself in the rays of love,
if I may trust to looks
which are wont to be witnesses of the heart

–Dante, Purgatorio XXVIII

The practical power of the belladonna, in effect, replaces a spiritual theory of love with a psychological one, for the eyes no longer mirror the soul but instead can be manipulated and enhanced by other means.  What is given by nature is transformed by art into something other, and the presuppositions about natural relations are undermined in the process, much as in the modern world, breast augmentation is preceived as displacing natural beauty with an artificial conception of what is beautiful.  The analogy is sometimes drawn with the binding of women’s feet in China, a practice that was propelled by a cultural desire on the part of certain men for small feet as well as coercion by women who had already undergone the grueling procedure.


The case with foot-binding may be something different, however, since the goal in this case is not to make one thing appear to be something it is not, but which is also natural, for instance transforming small eyes into big eyes, but rather to transform one natural thing into something else that is unnatural, and culturally conditioned.  Exceptionally large eyes, while unusual, do occur in nature, whereas feet folded over on themselves do not.  Thus the former is an act of deception, while the latter, technically, is not.


For Aristotle, the senses can never be deceived.  In On the Soul III:3 he states that “sensations are always true.”  To explain deception, then, he extends the faculty of imagination beyond something that is merely present in revery, and instead makes it a part of everyday experience.  To make this distinction between sense and imagination at the end of III:3, Aristotle draws on a distinction he made previously between special objects of sense and incidental objects of sense.  As an illustration (which is then used in several other works) Aristotle contrasts the patch of white that we might see in the distance with the son of Diares (the son of Cleon is sometimes also used in these illustrations).  The son of Diares is the incidental object of sense, while the patch of white is what we actually see.  While we might be in error about the former, we cannot be so about the latter.



Perception of the special objects of sense is never in error or admits the least possible amount of falsehood.  That of the concommitance of the objects concomitant with the sensible qualities comes next: in this case certainly we may be deceived; for while the perception that there is white before us cannot be false, the perception that what is white is this or that may be false.


Aristotle makes the imagination an intermediary between sensation and thought, functioning both as a high-level kind of sensation, or as something that often accompanies sensation, as well as a low-level kind of thinking.  Most interestingly, he ascribes this faculty of pseudo-thought to animals.



And because imaginations remain in the organs of sense and resemble sensations, animals in their actions are largely guided by them, some (i.e. the brutes) because of the non-existence in them of mind, others (i.e. men) because of the temporary eclipse in them of mind by feelings or disease or sleep.

tr. J.A. Smith


Contemporary biology supports the belief that animals not only have the faculty of imagination, and so are capable of being deceived, but goes further in suggesting that they also have the capacity to be deceivers.  In their book, How Monkeys See The World, Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth provide empirical evidence about the mental lives of monkeys, apes, and other species, including their ability to mislead others, even without the ability to introspect, which is the core faculty that allows humans to form notions about the inner lives of other people, and in turn allows humans to present themselves in ways that manipulate those inner lives.



The behavior and vocal signals of many different species often function to deceive or mislead others.  A review of the evidence, however, raises doubts about the flexibility of animal deception and provides little evidence for the attribution of mental states to others.  Great tits, for example give apparently deceptive alarm calls at feeding perches, and they are skillful enough to vary their false alarm calls depending upon who is nearby. If the birds at the feeding perch are lower ranking than the signaler, false alarm calls are rarely given, presumably because the caller can simply supplant his rivals by approaching.  When higher-ranking birds are present and a supplant is not possible, however, lower-ranking birds do give false alarm calls (Moller 1988).  There is, then, some flexibility in the use of deceptive alarms by great tits; however, the limits of great tit deception are equally striking.

This behavior suggests Nietzsche’s analysis of the origins of ressentiment, through the exercise of which Nietzsche’s mass men are able to overcome his nobles since the latter are incapable of duplicity or even of understanding it.  Ressentiment is a tool that allows not only for the levelling of society, but also allows the weak of Nietzsche’s philosophy to overcome the strong using mendacity and illusions.  The power of ressentiment comes from the ability to shape the minds of others as well as the drive to do so.  In animals, however, this special faculty seems to be absent.  According to Cheney and Seyfarth, manipulations of this sort only affect behavior, not thoughts.



We have no evidence, for example, that the birds use any other signals to deceive each other or that they use deceptive signals in any other social context.  Even in the case of nonhuman primates, there is little evidence that individuals ever act to manipulate each others’ beliefs, as opposed to each others’ behavior.


Perhaps the power of the belladonna, unlike that of Dante’s bella donna, is of a similar kind for, as Cheney and Seyfarth point out, the limits of great tit deception are striking.

Of Zombies (Part II)

Before using zombies as a metaphor for the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, Slavoj Zizek drew attention to a significant but often overlooked characteristic of zombies [1992]:

To a connoisseur of Alfred Hitchcock, this image instantly recalls The Birds, namely the corpse with the pecked-out eyes upon which Mitch’s mother (Jessica Tandy) stumbles in a lonely farmhouse, its sight causing her to emit a silent scream.  When, occasionally, we do catch the sparkle of these eyes, they seem like two candles lit deep within the head, perceivable only in the dark: these two lights somehow at odds with the head’s surface, like lanterns burning at night in a lonely, abandoned house, are responsible for the uncanny effect of the “living dead.”

The eyes of the undead are typically turned up so the irises are hidden and only white is shown (or sometimes the irises are even blotted out completely by the noxious fluid that animates the zombie).  This blankness of expression emphasizes the lack of an inner fire, as well as an incongruence between what zombies once were and what they have become. 

Contrast this with the eyes of the Afghan girl above, captured by a National Geographic photographer’s camera in 1985, which seem to overflow with the story of her life.

Zizek plays on this common association of the eyes with the soul to draw a connection between the empty eyes of the undead and the windows of an abandoned house.  The origin of this perceived affinity between eyes and souls is difficult to track down, however.  William Blake observed that “This life’s dim windows of the soul / Distorts the heavens from pole to pole.”  This in turn appears to be a reference to an older English folk saying, The eyes are the windows of the soul or, alternatively, The eyes are the windows to the soul, which the OED traces back to the sixteenth century.  Yet we also find a variation of this proverb in French, Les yeux sont le miroir de l’ame, which can loosely be translated as “The eyes are a reflection of the heart.”  de.wikiquote.org turns up Das Auge ist ein Fenster in die Seele as a German proverb, but erroneously ascribes it to the Bible. 

Rather than the Bible, the connection may lead back to ancient greek psychology.  In the Timaeus, Plato propounds a theory of vision involving both an inner fire and an outer fire created by the Demiurge.   Following Empedocles, Plato states that the inner fire lies behind the eyes, and in the act of perceiving emits rays that reach out, Superman-like, to touch the object being perceived.  At the object, the rays carrying the inner fire co-mingle with the light around the thing perceived and return this mixed light to the eyes and to the perceptive soul. 

In On Sense and the Sensible, Aristotle rejects his master’s notion of an inner fire, among other reasons because he finds it unnecessary.  Rather than a fire going out and then coming back in, Aristotle proposes that light from the object simply enters the eye, as we believe today.  He points out the mistaken notion that the visual organ is made of fire (natural science in the ancient world always revolved around the four elements) has its source in the bright lights one sees when one presses a finger against the eye.  Centuries later, Isaac Newton describes a similar experiment he self-inflicted by pushing a stick against his own eye, to see what would happen.

Aristotle proposes that the eye, in particular the pupil, is made of water rather than fire, for it has this particular characteristic of water: it is transparent.  Instead of serving as an active organ of attention, shooting out rays towards the world, the eye is a passive organ that receives impressions of color and magnitude which it passes to the soul, forming an impression of the sensible forms upon the soul as a signet ring forms an impression upon a piece of wax.

There must, therefore, be some translucent medium within the eye, and, as this is not air, it must be water.  The soul or its perceptive part is not situated at the external surface of the eye, but obviously somewhere within: whence the necessity of the interior of the eye being translucent, i.e. capable of admitting light.

In On the Motion of Animals and On the Generation of Animals, Aristotle outlines a physical theory of pneuma, a fine substance which permeates the body and carries sense impressions to the heart, which is the organ of the sixth sense (an organ he earlier denied  exists in On the Soul), or the common sense.  This pneumatic theory was further developed by Aristotle’s disciples, then by the Stoics, and eventually made its way into Renaissance psychology.

In his 1984 study of Renaissance phantasmic pneuma, Eros and Magic, Ioan Couliano surveys the problem of pneumatic infection through the eyes.  On the one hand, this takes the form of the evil eye, in which a diseased eye or an eye filled with malice can infect a person through the sensory organ and pneuma, thus taking over the sensus communis and causing a wasting away of the infected victim.  On the other, it takes the form of romantic infatuation, in which the beloved’s image takes over the lover’s soul and, when the love is unrequited, causes a similar wasting away of the victim. This erotic phenomenon led the poet Giacomo da Lentino to ask, “How can it be that so large a woman has been able to penetate my eyes, which are so small, and then enter my heart and my brain?”  Following the Platonic theory of ingneous optical rays, French poets identified this with fleches d’amour, an image which still persists in modern culture, though out of context, as Cupid’s arrows.  In its proper context, we can better understand Leonardo da Vinci’s observation “that the eyes of virgins have the power to attract the love of men.”

Circulating through the same pneumatic passage in which contagion of the blood is spread are images that, in the mirror of common sense, are changed into phantasms.  When Eros is at work, the phantasm of the loved object leads its own existence, all the more disquieting because it exerts a kind of vampirism on the subject’s other phantasms and throughts.  It is a morbid distension of its activity which, in its results, can be called both concentration and possession: concentration because the subject’s entire inner life is reduced to contemplation of one phantasm only; possession, because this phantasmic monopoly is involuntary and its collateral influence over the subject’s psychosomatic condition is highly deleterious.

— Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, tr. Margaret Cook

All the foregoing has assumed that the affinity between eyes and souls is a cultural artifact.  An alternative case can be made that the cultural function of the eyes is actually a side-effect of how we see the world.  Studies of the brain indicate that the interpretation of other people’s emotional states tend to concentrate on the eyes, and a great deal of our brain capacity is devoted to this particular task.  The amygdala, a part of the brain connected to the visual cortex and responsible for regulating fear reactions, has been shown to respond more strongly to larger (fearful) eye whites than to smaller (happy) eye whites. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Arthur Arun, a New York psychiatrist, has performed experiments demonstrating that simply encouraging people to stare into each other’s eyes for a length of time can instill feelings of attraction. 

The proverb the eyes are the windows to the soul may mask a physicalist truth, that the eyes are not a metaphor for the soul, but rather the soul is a metaphor for the eyes.  In the eyes we see the essence of another person: their emotions which over time become a model of our expectations of how they will respond to us.  The eyes are a touchstone allowing us to project thoughts and beliefs upon other people.  We introspect to triangulate our beliefs, eye expressions, and emotions, and from this matrix try to determine if another person responds as we would, or as we would like.  We look to the eyes to determine a person’s depth of emotion, and consequently their depth of spirit.  And when those eyes are empty, there is no longer anything present to project upon or interpret.

 

As no part, if it participate not in soul, will be a part except in an equivocal sense (as the eye of a dead man is still called an ‘eye’), so no soul will exist in anything except that of which it is soul….

On the Generation of Animals, tr. Arthur Platt

Of Zombies (Part I)


Asking the question “What is a zombie?” raises methodological issues which must be addressed before any attempt to answer the question may proceed.  For instance, it must be determined what kind of zombie we are trying to define: voodoo zombies, movie zombies, philosophical zombies, some other kind of thing called a “zombie”.  We might also want to arrive at a definition that covers all these various sorts of zombie.  Additionally, we need to concern ourselves with how we should go about determining what a zombie is.  We might follow a natural language philosophy, in which case we would replace the question “What is a zombie?” with the semantic question “What do we mean when we say zombie?”  We might, on the contrary, decide that we want to determine the deep meaning of the phenomenon of zombies, in which case we replace “What is a zombie” with the structuralist question “What is the cultural function of the zombie?”  Both of these questions have empirical, hence verifiable, procedures for persuing their respective questions.  We might also pursue a non-verifiable manner of determining what a zombie is.  To find out what a movie zombie is, we might ask George A. Romero what he intended his zombies to be.  We might also take the tack that the author is unreliable in matters such as this, and so a true revelation of the deep meaning of zombies would require that we ask anyone but the auteur what zombies represent. 


One tendency in evaluations of the undead is to discover a political meaning in the zombie phenomenon.  In doing so, the intent isn’t simply to show that there is a political dimension to zombies, but rather that the political exhausts all the deep meaning inherent in zombies.  For a survey of the political analyses of zombie-hood, see Reason Magazine‘s survey of zombie literature, which covers interpretations of zombies as alienated labor, Vietnam vets, white supremists, consumer culture, and a few more.  This follows a tendency in certain circles to see all deep meaning as ultimately political.


David Chalmers goes in a different direction with his discussion of philosophical zombies.  Chalmers makes clear that he is not trying to reinterpret the phenomenon of zombies, but rather is merely appropriating the language of zombies to describe something technically different.  Thus, while there may be overlaps between philosophical zombies, movie zombies and voodoo zombies, these are not necessarily relevant to the study of zombies that he is pursuing.  Which to some extent is unfortunate, since the relationship between philosophical zombies and political zombies is a rich one.  There is an apparent connection between zombies as a manifestation of alientated labor, zombies as a manifestation of aliented man, and zombies as beings without interior lives.


Zombies can be defined provisionally as empty vessels into which any sort of meaning may be poured.  This is what Descartes does in the Meditations to resolve the problem of other minds which he initially poses.  Early in this work, Descartes wonders how he can know that the people around him are indeed real people rather than automata, devices created to emulate human behavior but which have no being other than that of a seeming-nature.  Only after proving his own existence, which serves as a ground from which to prove the existence of God, is he able to return to the original problem and declare that other persons most likely do have an interior life like his because they outwardly behave as he does, and that God would not create a world in which an appearance such as this is not accompanied by a similar reality.  God is not a deceiver.


God has been pronounced dead in the intervening years, and so we are left with various problems we once thought resolved.  The notion of a natural political order upon which democracies such as the United States were founded have fallen aside in His wake.  Without a ready repository of pre-determined meanings founded on religion, modern man is left unmoored and in search for relevance.  Once apparently settled by Descartes, the problem of other minds rises from the dead to trouble us once more, and the attempt to unravel the meaning of the Zombie is entangled with the attempt to unravel the meaning of our own existence.