Culture Magazine

The Walking Dead, Philosophy Zombies, and Zombie Banks

By Realizingresonance @RealizResonance

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Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

 

Zombies are all the rage right now. AMC’s intense horror series The Walking Dead has just been renewed for a third season after only two episodes, given that the second season premier drew 7.8 million viewers and broke basic cable ratings records. The season finale of True Blood took place on Halloween with the character Arlene, dressed in a zombie costume, proclaiming, “zombies are the new vampires.” I am not sure what has made zombies become so popular, since the benefits of being a vampire are at least somewhat attractive, and being a zombie seems like it would be less cool and less intellectually rewarding. Besides the walking undead there are other types of zombies as well, such as philosophy zombies and zombie banks. There are interesting differences between the various kinds of zombies, but they are all a bit scary.

In the popular imagination zombies are undead humans who have transformed permanently into mindless and decaying animated corpses. They have only one appalling purpose, one ghastly goal, a soulless urge to eat humans flesh, organs, and brains. There are many terrifying things about zombies besides their grisly appearance. They are incredibly difficult to kill, usually requiring a fatal brain injury before their vicious attacks can be stopped. What they lack in speed they make up for in stamina and a virtual insensitivity to pain and injury, their instinct to bite and claw the living a relentless urge and perpetual undertaking. The most horrifying aspect of zombies is not that they will just kill you, but that they will infect you with their sickness, transforming you into a zombie like them, and forcing any living companions of yours to put you out of you misery. In zombie stories there are inevitable macabre moments, like when a character needs to be told that the walking corpse clawing for them is no longer their loved one, or when one character confides in another that they wish to be killed the old fashion way so that their body will be spared the undead fate. The frightening implication of the infectious zombie scenario is that it results in the exponential growth of the zombie population, with a simultaneous exponential decay in the human population, leading to the rapid onset of a zombie apocalypse. Zombie stories are always about a ragtag band of survivors, and no one is safe.

Philosophy zombies are a bit less dramatic than apocalypse zombies, being behaviorally, functionally, and physically identical to normal humans. The only thing that philosophy zombies are missing is consciousness experience. In the philosophy of mind, zombies have become a contentious form of thought experiment, a conceptual tool used to argue against the functionalist concept of the mind. Functionalism is the dominant view of the mind in philosophy and neuroscience, and it suggests that consciousness is only the functional aspects of biological organs such as the brain the nervous system, and is just a natural part of the physical world. This view is in opposition to the dualist notion that the mind is an immaterial substance that is not dependent on the physical. Philosopher David Chalmers (93-99) argues that it is logically possible for there to be a zombie world, based on its conceivability without contradiction. That is we can conceive of an entire zombie world, a universe that is exactly like ours in every way, down to me writing this blog article, but in which no one has any awareness or experience of what it is like to be alive. These zombies are completely unconscious beings, who nevertheless look and behave exactly like we do now as conscious beings. This argument seeks to show that the functionalist cannot be right about the mind, because consciousness is not reducible to the brain and physical explanations, since all of the physical facts about the world can be explained functionally without any need for consciousness at all. I don’t know about you, but the possibility of being a philosophy zombie is not much more appealing than becoming an apocalypse zombie.

While apocalypse zombies and philosophy zombies do not appear to inhabit the real world, we are faced with very real possibility of zombie banks, financial institutions which have net negative worth due to excessive debt or depreciating assets on their balance sheets. These banks are risk averse, and unable or unwilling to make many new loans, yet due to government backing they remain undead. Japan has had zombie banks for decades, and financial analyst Meredith Whitney recently suggested that the largest US banks are also now zombie banks (Perman). Zombie banks don’t help the economy by investing in it, but eat the economy by staying alive through new fees on their customers. Unfortunately zombie banks are also very difficult to kill. These are the worst zombies of all.

This Halloween I hope to see a lot of great zombie costumes.

Jared Roy Endicott

The Walking Dead, Philosophy Zombies, and Zombie Banks
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Works Cited

Chalmers, David J.. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Perman, Cindy.. “Why Zombies Are Taking Over the Economy”. CNBC.com . 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2011.

Robinson, Daniel N.. “Zombies”. Consciousness and Its Implications. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses, The Teaching Company, 2008. Audio.

 


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By Moshe Tanner
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