Zombies can't choose to want a brain, although they crave to eat human brains. Image by Gareth Cameron
Zombies can’t choose to want a brain, although they crave to eat human brains. Image courtesy of Gareth Cameron. Used with permission; all rights reserved.

Dien Ho is passionate about zombies; in his article in Philosophy Now, he attempts to argue in their defence. He goes so far as to suggest it might be in our interests to join them in the event of a zombie invasion. This could be seen as something of a contradiction. Zombies exist, if they can be said to “exist,” in a repugnant, decomposed state, without any intelligent plan or activity, and are driven entirely by their own impulses to consume the brains and flesh of living humans like you and me.

Dien Ho is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Health Care Ethics at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science.  His research focuses on philosophical issues related to science and health care ethics. So ethical issues relating to zombies is, understandably, a subject of considerable fascination.

So, What’s Good About Being a Zombie?

There are certain fringe benefits to zombie-ism. They don’t suffer or feel pain and, providing their heads aren’t bashed in by a human with an ax, they are immortal. After all, since time immemorial, humans have been pursuing the concept of immortality.

Dien Ho says, “They are not concerned about the threat of terrorism, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. And they certainly do not become jealous, depressed, worrisome, or suffer the other anxieties that regularly plague our waking moments.

They can be compared to “…a Zen Buddhist monk who has managed to let go of earthly concerns,” says Dien Ho. However, it’s doubtful that the average Zen Buddhist monk would concur.

Imagine a World Taken Over by Zombies

It would be grim for human survivors in a zombie invasion. It might be better to join the zombies in their insatiable quest for rotting flesh. “If one can be better off dead – as many advocates of euthanasia have suggested – surely one can be better off undead?” asks this radical philosopher.

One could ask what would happen if everyone opted to join the undead? There would be no living flesh left to eat, or humans to reproduce in order to maintain the food supply. Would the zombies start eating each other?  Dien Ho doesn’t enlighten us about this urgent question.

The Meaning of Meaninglessness

The key question posed by Dien Ho is that once a human being became a zombie, life would be meaningless. He quotes the philosopher, Richard Taylor, who, in his book In Good and Evil, A New Direction (1984) considers the question of what actually constitutes meaning.

In the myth of Sisyphus: “…the Greek gods punish crafty King Sisyphus by making him push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down as it reaches the top. Sisyphus must then roll the boulder back up, only to have it roll back down, ad infinitum.”  This, according to Richard Taylor, describes “…the eternal cycle of objective futility and psychological frustration.”

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  • Darla Dollman

    Acts of compassion and love are meaningful simply because they take place. Zombies cannot feel emotions. There would be no point in existing without emotions, and zombies have no emotions. The argument discusses negative emotions, such as fear, pain, loss, but not the positive emotions one also experiences in life. The question is worded as a statement, but if I understand it correctly the answer is no, it would not be “better” to be a zombie. That would be the equivalent to comparing a chemical weapon to a human. I could choose to be a chemical weapon, kill many people, cause tremendous pain and suffering for survivors, and have no remorse because I have nor feelings, or I could be a human who suffers at times, but also has opportunities to show compassion, kindness, and to show love and receive love in return.