Concepts are how we give meaning to everyday things. We make, name, communicate, and imagine concepts all day everyday; concepts are vital to understanding this world we live in. A concept is an abstract idea or a cognitive unit of meaning. Zombies, for example, are a concept, but where did this concept of the living dead arise? Is there some religious link to this concept or is it an image of imagination?
A zombie is defined as a fictional undead demon or a person in a rapt state being controlled by a bokor, sorcerer, or a wizard. The origin of the zombie appears to of first emerge from Western African Vodun and Haitian Voodoo. Vodun is the traditional organized religion of coastal West Africa. In this religion a deceased person can be revived by a bokor, like a sorcerer or priest, and these “zombies” will remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own, according to the tenets of West African Vodun. Another tradition of this religion is that of the zombi astral. Elizabeth McAlister, of Wesleyan University, reports that this is part of the human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor’s power. The zombi astral is usually kept inside a bottle in which the bokor can sell to clients for things like luck, healing or business success. Vodun legend proclaims that feeding a zombie salt will make it return to the grave. The concept of zombies exists within the West African Vodun religion, as well as within Haitian Voodoo.
The existence of zombies in Haitian religion was brought attention to by Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist. In 1982, he traveled to Haiti to investigate the concept of zombies and from his investigations he concluded that a living person could become a zombie. He insists that this would be possible if two powders were entered into the bloodstream concocting a pharmacological case of zombies. The first powder called coup de poudre, French for powder strike, includes tetrodotoxin which is a powerful and fatal neurotoxin found on the flesh of the puffer fish. The second powder consists of dissociative drugs, such as datura. Dissociative drugs are a type of psychoactive drug that is said to reduce or block signals to the conscious part of the brain. Combined, these two powders are said to induce a death-like state in which the will of the person is entirely subjected to that of a bokor. These claims by Davis have been criticized and his findings are scrutinized as overly credulous. These findings are not entirely proven, but the concept of this type of zombie seems to be plausible. Religious concepts of zombies are very real; however, a philosophical zombie is a hypothetical concept.
Philosophical zombies, or p-zombies, can be distinguished as a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from human form except that it acquires no or limited consciousness. These types of zombies are used within a field of research called philosophy of mind, in which researchers examine the...