- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Brain Transplants1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Summary" above.
Write-up2 (as at 16/03/2018 18:27:22): Brain Transplants
- Brain Transplants, even if currently technically infeasible are considered to be important TEs4. They seem to give the same answer to both the holders of the Psychological Continuity5 View and the Bodily Continuity6 View of what ensures the persistence of the person across time. Both say that the person goes where the brain goes. However, some animalists7 disagree. They (Eric Olson for instance) consider the brain to be “just another organ, albeit a very important one. I find this counter-intuitive.
- It is important to understand just how the brain works, so that we can determine just how fanciful our TEs are. I will discuss this under the Note on the Brain8. An assumption I make is that as we are interested in the question What we Are9, it is important to be empirically accurate.
- Note that there are three conceptually distinct versions of the idea of a brain transplant10.
- The first is a Whole Brain Transplant (WBT; though it becomes somewhat arbitrary quite where the brain is supposed to terminate – ie. just how much of the Spinal Cord is included).
- The second is the Cerebrum11 Transplant (single or double).
- Finally, there’s a “brain tissue” transplant, presumably with the intention of transferring particular psychological properties.
- It might be objected that the TEs of WBTs are under-specified. A lot of motor-control is delegated to the CNS (Central Nervous System); and to ensure motor-control, the brain and the CNS – and even the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) need to work in tandem. Yet a transfer of the entire CNS - which includes the spinal cord, let alone the PNS – which includes all the peripheral nerve endings (both sensory and motor) – stretches credulity somewhat.
- We need to consider just what the TEs are supposed to prove, and just why we sometimes consider WBTs rather than just Cerebrum transfers. I presume the preference for WBTs may stem from the presumed assurance that the seat of consciousness is transferred, which might not be the case if only a cerebrum or two are transferred.
- It may be we don’t care too much whether the recipient of the transferred brain is fully functional – though if we want assurance that this individual is an animal, we might want the regulatory functions of the brain to remain intact. But whatever brain parts perform these tasks, provided the resultant individual has a full brain, however cobbled together, we might have what we want if the wiring problem can be solved.
- A Whole Brain Transplant might better be described as a maximal body12 transplant, while it is much less clear what’s going on in a Cerebrum Transplant. The latter are useful for cases of fission (with the added assumption of the idempotency of the two hemispheres), but it’s not fully clear just what psychological functions are left behind in this case. Because not all regulatory functions are in the cerebra, it’s more difficult to argue that the human animal is transplanted with one or more cerebra than it is with a WBT.
- I’ve not heard of anyone arguing for animal fission by a fission of the whole brain, but maybe they have.
- The various variants of Brain Transplants are to be contrasted with:-
- BIVs13, where the brain is removed, placed in a vat of nutrients and hooked up to sensory input and motor output; we have a WBT in all but name.
- Brain State Transfers14, TEs which – rather fancifully – involve the transfer of information.
- Commissurotomy15, where the corpus callosum is cut, allegedly (on some accounts) creating two brains, and two persons, where there had been one.
- Uploading16, in which TE the same information is uploaded to a computer, which is supposed to be able to run a program to process it.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read17, include18 the following:-
- "Allen (Becky) - Humans. Dolphins. Crows. Chimps. Bonobos. Robots. Welcome to the Space of Possible Minds", Allen19
- "Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity: In Conclusion", Baillie
- "Hershenov (David) - Countering the Appeal of the Psychological Approach to Personal Identity", Hershenov
- "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings", Johnston
- "Liao (S. Matthew) - The Organism View Defended", Liao
- "Martin (Alan P.) - Human head transplant: Controversial procedure successfully carried out on corpse", Martin20
- "Olson (Eric) - The Remnant-Person Problem", Olson
- "Olson (Eric) - Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach", Olson
- "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches", Shoemaker
- "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern", Shoemaker
- "Snowdon (Paul) - Personal Identity and Brain Transplants", Snowdon
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Brain Transplants", Van Inwagen
- "Wiggins (David) - Locke, Butler and the Stream of Consciousness: And Men as Natural Kind", Wiggins
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Harrison (Jonathan) - A Philosopher's Nightmare or the Ghost Not Laid", Harrison
- "Harrison (Jonathan) - How Ludwig Became a Homunculus", Harrison
- "Madden (Rory) - Externalism and Brain Transplants", Madden
- "Northoff (G.) - Do Brain Tissue Transplants Alter Personal Identity? Inadequacies of Some 'Standard' Arguments", Northoff
- "Puccetti (Roland) - Brain Transplants and Personal Identity", Puccetti
- "Puccetti (Roland) - Mr. Brennan on Person's Brains", Puccetti
- "Puccetti (Roland) - Remembering the Past of Another", Puccetti
- "Snowdon (Paul) - Brain Transplants, Animals, and Us", Snowdon
- This is mostly a place-holder21.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (16/03/2018 18:27:22).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
- I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
- As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
- The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
- This is a slightly slippery term, in that sometimes it includes the brain, though not here.
- It depends what it’s contrasted with, and the context generally.
- See the Note on Body.
- Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
- In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
- In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
- My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
- I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
- Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
- While mostly about other matters, this article reminds us that “brains and bodies develop together”, so simply removing a brain and trying to plug it into another body won’t necessarily work, however good we are at the wiring.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018