The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

By Richard Greene; K. Silem Mohammad | Go to book overview

3
“She’s Not Your Mother
Anymore, She’s a Zombie!”:
Zombies, Value, and
Personal Identity

HAMISH THOMPSON


The Value of a Zombie

Why do we have so few qualms about killing zombies? The Undead’s aggressive anti-social behavior usually involves an insatiable lust to eat, kill, or transform us. This no doubt creates a justification for zombie decapitation on the grounds of selfdefense. Another reason, retribution, hardly seems a relevant justification given their largely mindless state. Retribution as a justification for punishment presupposes some kind of moral agency that at a minimum requires some substantial notion of self that zombies appear to lack. In White Zombie,1 some of the zombies are guilty of hideous crimes before their transformation. If zombies possess a minimal self and their zombified identity is continuous with their prior identity, and the zombie in the pre-zombie state is guilty of a heinous crime, we might think that we are still justified in punishing him or her on the grounds of retribution.2 But what if the zombie before zombification was an innocent child, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a fiance, or your mother?

Another reason proposed for the limited moral worth of zombies might be their largely absent mentality, their altered personal identity, or some combination of both. Zombies clearly appear to have something going on “upstairs,” but not much, and presumably what they have is very different from their prior

1 Directed by Victor Halperin, 1932.

2 Granted, this is a rare case.

-27-

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