Just for fun: Zombie ethics

Recently, I was asked, “As a professor of ethics, what moral duties might people owe to zombies?”

Well, most moral systems assume that a being who is entitled to moral rights is either: (1) A being that can experience pain, or (2) A being that has interests which it pursues in accordance with its (2a) nature, or (2b) existential purpose.

Zombies, according to all experiments so far conducted, do not feel pain. Some put on a good show of feeling pain when attacked. But we’ve found zombies still able to lift heavy objects, walk, groan, eat brains, etc., even while shot with a dozen arrows and even while bleeding from the stump of a recently severed arm. So we can conclude that either they feel no pain at all, or that they are constantly in pain and nothing that others do can either worsen or improve their lot. So we can rule out moral duties to zombies based on premise (1).

As for moral duties based on interests (2), it seems that they have none. For they have no ‘nature’ (2a), since, being dead bodies that still inexplicably walk, their very existence is contrary to nature. They also seem to have no existential purpose (2b) (or not 2b) except, so it seems, to eat brains. That seems to be all they want to do.

The trouble with this claim is that for a zombie to eat a brain, someone else must lose his brain. Now, being alive is an interest everyone (who is not a zombie) possesses, and the depravation of one’s brain is contrary to that interest. It follows that to offer a zombie your brain is to subvert your moral duties to yourself. It further follows that if zombies have rights based on their interest in brain-eating, then that is a right which cannot be fulfilled without violating another person’s rights.

One could voluntarily give up one’s right to live, and offer a zombie your brain. We have lots of practice here, since many people regularly offer their brains to new-age gurus and conservative politicians. But I would think twice before doing so; after all, that second thought would likely be the last thought in your life.

Herr Doktor Expert, professor of zombie ethics, recommends that you barricade your home in preparation for the zombie apocalypse. And should your loved ones suddenly become zombies, proceed to your basement, take up the patented anti-zombie 2×4 (which I will happily sell you) and bash the bugger’s skull.


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