Human beings engage the world through our senses, but, except for the sense of smell, zombies have inferior sensory engagement with their surroundings. Although it is likely that one of the recently “turned” will have visual acuity similar to that of the living human it recently was, with the normal deterioration that accompanies death, the zombie will eventually lose the ability to see entirely. According to Max Brooks, zombies have no sense of touch and research on zombie taste is inconclusive. Experiments show that although they can hear, this sense in the undead is inferior to that of the living. Only in their sense of smell are zombies superior, apparently able to smell a fresh corpse from a mile away under the right conditions. And even if the undead did have all of the human senses, they have no functioning brain to help them make sense of the sensory information.
Because of this, zombies have very little connection to the world of objects.
In this way too, zombies are a reflection of the modern human being.
The modern self is separated from the world of objects. One might say that the radical separation between the human individual and the object is a foundational premise of Modernity. We hold to the idea that “if we know something, we can also say we think it.” This has not always been so. In Augustine, for instance, thinking was an intellectual and imaginative activity directed at the object and “in giving too much weight to thought, without even realizing it–or in reality, even justifying it–we project what we think onto the fact” (Giussani 4).
About three centuries ago, Western thinkers began to think of humans, not as a part of a created order from which all things derived meaning and purpose. They began to see human beings in opposition to the natural world of things. After all, things are not self-aware, rational or responsible and humans are. These thinkers began a campaign toward freedom, to extricate humanity from nature. Using a narrow reason, aided by science and technology, Modern man then imposed his dominion over the natural world and shaped it to accommodate his freedom.
Thus freed from nature, (and the Church, hierarchies, monarchs, tradition, etc.), one would think humanity ought to have arrived at some sort of pinnacle or something. But some think that we have found the opposite.
Are we are alone–trapped in our subjectivity; separated from the natural world–the world of objects? This would included our own bodies–for they are natural objects as well.
The zombie monster asks us some tough questions about how we understand the self: “Are we are trapped in a world exactly the size of our brain pan.”