Kyle Munkittrick answers the vitally important question: is it ethical to kill zombies?
Now I dislike the Walking Dead, but I did sort of like one aspect. I half-watch it while my husband watches, and I believe one character refuses to kill his relatives who have turned into zombies, since he wouldn’t kill a relative who lost her mind. And, well, you know, that actually is an ethical issue that would come up were there zombies.
I agree with Munkittrick that the phase of infection and the possibility of regaining human consciousness are relevant in the way he describes. But he’s wrong on dignity of the body:
Whether you’re a consequentialist arguing the social impacts of disregarding the emotions of kin or a Kantian arguing the inherent dignity of the human form, there is a strong case that a human body deserves respect. The question as to what one can do to a zombified body are then called into question. I shouldn’t mutilate a corpse, therefore I shouldn’t damage an animated corpse, which is a problem when that corpse wants to gobble my brains.
The resolution is acknowledging that being zombified is itself a desecration of a corpse. I use the ideal of an open-casket funeral to judge whether or not a certain behavior reduces the dignity of a corpse. A moaning, mindless meat-seeking monster attempting to escape the coffin to disembowel those come to mourn it would reduce the dignity of said corpse.
I agree with the general idea on either a consequentialist or Kantian view, desecration of the human body is to be avoided. But the resolution does not lie in declaring the corpse already desecrated. What if there were a zombie virus that made the corpse especially good-looking and dapper. Even better than in life, with a spring in the step and renewed vitality! Surely it would still be permissible to kill the snazzy zombie.
The resolution is simpler: the right to (or benefits of) preservation of our life trumps the dignity of the corpse, on both a Kantian and consequentialist view.
Now, a question for another time: is it permissible to kill philosophical zombies?