Inspired by Uriah’s post below, I invent a new kind of zombie (a hedonic-zombie), draw a distinction between strong and weak internalism about the good life, and argue that Nagelian thought experiments involving hedonic-zombies support weak, not strong, internatlism. First, some definitions:
- Hedonic-zombies (or h-zombies) are exactly like us in all physical respects and mostly like us in terms of their conscious states; however, unlike us, they are incapable of experiencing pleasure or pain, or any of their cognates, such as joy and anguish, satisfaction and frustration, etc. Although, like us, h-zombies have desires and aspirations about how their lives might go, they are never displeased when things don’t go as they wanted them to and are never pleased when things do go as they wanted them to. They take no joy in anything, not in getting what they want, not in watching a beautiful sunset, not in discovering some new philosophical insight, not even in making love.
- Strong Internalism about the Good Life: Two lives differ in their welfare value if and only if they differ in their psychological features.
- Weak Internalism about the Good Life: Two lives differ in their welfare value if and only if they differ in their pleasantness, but how pleasant a life is needn’t depend solely on the psychological facts about that life.
Now it seems to me that the lives of all h-zombies will have the same welfare value: namely, zero welfare value. So although two h-zombies may desire to be loved and respected and whereas one, Hank, is both and the other, Herald, is neither, it seems correct to say that Herald is no worse off (or better off) than Hank is. But this intuition about the welfare value of the lives of h-zombies doesn’t support strong internalism; it only supports weak internalism. And, as Fred Feldman has ably shown, weak internalism is consistent with the view that Tim, who is pleased that he seems to be loved and respected and is loved and respected, has a more pleasant life than Tom, who is pleased that he seems to be loved and respected but isn’t loved and respected. That is, one can accept truth-adjusted intrinsic attitudinal hedonism (TAIAH), according to which the value of an episode of attitudinal pleasure depends not only on its intensity and duration, but also on the truth value of its object. Other things being equal, an episode of attitudinal pleasure where one is pleased that P and P is true is more pleasant and, consequently, of more value than an episode of attitudinal pleasure where one is pleased that P and P is false.
In conclusion, I think that although zombie arguments might be usefully employed against theories that reject weak internalism, such as, the desire-fulfillment theory, they cannot be used to refute weak internalism.