Zombies cannot be humans for the very simple reason that they lack the capability for introspection and independent decision making. Human beings are largely distinguishable from other animal species by the ability to look deep into their souls or minds with the view of finding answers. Oftentimes, these answers require processing substantially large amounts of information. They also require the emotional intelligence to be able to interpret the potential impact that the decisions arising from these answers may have on other people. It is this ability to introspect that makes humans considerate. Zombies, at least as depicted in popular culture, are thoughtless and soulless beings who traverse the earth with no higher purpose in mind. Such higher purpose cannot be developed without self-awareness.
Self-awareness has been defined as the ability of being acquainted with oneself through introspection (Billon, 2017). Introspection refers to the act of looking within oneself to identify strengths, limitations and talents or gifts. It also enables human beings to examine their desires and the impact these desires may have on the people around them. Lacking the ability for introspection may be harmful to one’s psychological well-being. In fact, research indicates that mental patients who exhibit depersonalization are usually either lacking basic self-awareness or have an impaired sense of it (Billon, 2017). For these patients there is a possibility that their ailment may be cured through psychiatric intervention, implying their potential for self-awareness still exists. However, for zombies, there is no way to reverse their condition to make them fully functional human beings again. It can thus be argued that zombies are beyond redemption in regard to re-developing self-awareness.
Another aspect of being human is being affected by the experiences one goes through. Specifically, having one’s worldview altered by diverse experiences. As posited by Chadha (2011), the development of the concept of self is a function of perceptions formed through experiential learning (Chadha, 2011). Basically, how one sees themselves is mainly influenced by the experiences they have gone through and the people they have interacted with. This fact largely explains why some people are more resilient and consider themselves to be more resilient than others. Such resilience is generally acquired after going through a set of challenging experiences or difficult situations. However, this resilient-building effect of experience can only be mediated by the presence of self-awareness. For one to reap the benefits of such trying circumstances, they need to be able to interpret them as learning opportunities. This can only happen after introspection. Since zombies are unaffected by their experience, it is only logical that they lack self-awareness. As such, they cannot be human.
An observation has been made by one of the students regarding babies and self-awareness. The point made is that babies lack self-awareness. This statement may not be generally true. To make that conclusion, an understanding of the neurological underpinnings of self-awareness needs to be developed. While studies in this area are ongoing, no definitive conclusions have been made. It is possible that due to their inability to coherently express themselves, babies’ self-awareness may not be clearly visible from the early days of their development. However, even if it turns out to be true that babies lack self-awareness, they still have the potential to develop it in future, unlike zombies. Therefore, on the basis of self-awareness as a definitive element of being human, zombies cannot be human.
Billon, A. (2017). Basic Self-Awareness. European Journal of Philosophy, 25(3), 732-763.
Chadha, M. (2011). Self-Awareness: Eliminating the Myth of the “Invisible Subject”. Philosophy East & West, 61(3), 453-467.