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Personal Identity

Brain Transplants

(Text as at 18/08/2009 20:39:50)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


Brain Transplants, even if currently technically infeasible are considered to be important TEs1. They seem to give the same answer to both the holders of the Psychological2 Continuity View and the Bodily3 Continuity View of what ensures the persistence of the person across time. Both say that the person goes where the brain goes. However, some animalists4 disagree.

Note that there are two conceptually distinct versions of the idea of a brain transplant5.

  1. The first is a Whole Brain Transplant (though it becomes somewhat arbitrary quite where the brain is supposed to terminate – ie. just how much of the Spinal Cord is included).
  2. The second is the Cerebrum Transplant (single or double).
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 wanted 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 body 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.



Printable Versions:



Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
26/11/2007 23:25:26 1075 Brain Transplant



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/08/2009 20:39:50 Brain Transplants Thought Experiments

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Animalism Bodily Continuity Psychological Continuity Thought Experiments Transplants

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Abbreviations Aeon Papers - Summary Document Animalism - Objections Brain Brain Criterion
Brain State Transfer Causality Cerebrum Chimera Counting Persons
Death Fusion Human Beings Johnston - Human Beings, 2 Reduplication Objections
Snowdon - The Self and Personal Identity Thesis - Chapter 10 (Thought Experiments) Thesis - Current Stance Transplants  

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Allen (Becky) Humans. Dolphins. Crows. Chimps. Bonobos. Robots. Welcome to the Space of Possible Minds Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Claxton (Guy) Intelligence in the Flesh: Why Your Mind Needs Your Body Much More Than it Thinks Book Medium Quality Abstract    
Dennett (Daniel) Where Am I? Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper High Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Liao (S. Matthew) The Organism View Defended Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Olson (Eric) Animalism and the Remnant-Person Problem Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Olson (Eric) Psychology and Personal Identity Paper High Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Olson (Eric) Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach Paper Medium Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Snowdon (Paul) The Self and Personal Identity Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Abbreviations Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Animalism - Objections Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Criterion Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain State Transfer Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Transplants Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Causality Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Cerebrum Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Chimera Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Counting Persons Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Current Position Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Death Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Fusion Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Human Beings Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Reduplication Objections Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Transplants Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Van Inwagen (Peter) Précis of Material Beings Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Allen (Becky) Humans. Dolphins. Crows. Chimps. Bonobos. Robots. Welcome to the Space of Possible Minds Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract CAM (Cambridge Alumni Magazine) Issue 79 - Michaelmas 2016 Yes
Baillie (James) Problems in Personal Identity Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity 63%
Baillie (James) Problems in Personal Identity: In Conclusion Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Conclusion Yes
Baker (Deane-Peter) Taylor and Parfit on Personal Identity: a Response to Lotter Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract South African Journal of Philosophy, Aug99, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p331, 16p Yes
Bambrough (Renford), Ed. Philosophy - 67/262 (October 1992) Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Bambrough (Renford), Ed. - Philosophy - 67/262 (October 1992) No
Blatti (Stephan) & Snowdon (Paul), Eds Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Blatti (Stephan) & Snowdon (Paul), Eds - Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity 21%
Borowski (E.J.) Identity and Personal Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Mind, 1976, 481-502 No
Canavero (Sergio) HEAVEN: The head anastomosis venture Project outline for the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage (GEMINI) Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Surgical Neurology International, June 13, 2013 17%
Canavero (Sergio) The “Gemini” spinal cord fusion protocol: Reloaded Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Surgical Neurology International, February 3, 2015 No
Cockburn (David), Ed. Human Beings Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Cockburn (David), Ed. - Human Beings 11%
Graham (Gordon) Review of David Cockburn's 'Human Beings' Paper - By Subtopic High Quality Abstract Philosophy - 67/262 (October 1992) No
Guardian Newspaper First full body transplant is two years away, surgeon claims Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Guardian Newspaper (Ian Sample), 25/02/15 No
Guardian Newspaper I'll do the first human head transplant Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Guardian Newspaper (Tom Lamont), 03/10/15 17%
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) Aeon: L-P Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: L-P 27%
Harrison (Jonathan) A Philosopher's Nightmare or the Ghost Not Laid Paper - By Subtopic Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 67 (1966 - 1967), pp. 179-188 No
Harrison (Jonathan) How Ludwig Became a Homunculus Paper - By Subtopic Philosophy, Vol. 71, No. 277 (Jul., 1996), pp. 439-444 No
Hershenov (David) Countering the Appeal of the Psychological Approach to Personal Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophy - 79, Jul2004, Issue 309, p447-474, 28p; Yes
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract Journal of Philosophy, Volume 84, Issue 2 (Feb 1987), 59-83 Yes
Liao (S. Matthew) The Organism View Defended Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract The Monist, Vol. 89, No. 3, Coming into Being and Passing Away (July 2006), pp. 334-350 Yes
Madden (Rory) Externalism and Brain Transplants Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol 6, eds. K. Bennett and D. Zimmerman, OUP 2011 4%
Martin (Alan P.) Human head transplant: Controversial procedure successfully carried out on corpse Paper - By Subtopic alphr; 17th November 2017 Yes
New Scientist First human head transplant could happen in two years Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract New Scientist (Helen Thomson), 25/02/15 No
Northoff (G.) Do Brain Tissue Transplants Alter Personal Identity? Inadequacies of Some 'Standard' Arguments Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jun., 1996) (pp. 174-180) No
O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. Philosophy - 71/277 (July 1996) Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Philosophy - 71/277 (July 1996) No
O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. Philosophy - 79/309 (July 2004) Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Philosophy - 79/309 (July 2004) 24%
Olson (Eric) Animalism and the Remnant-Person Problem Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract J. Fonseca and J. Gonçalves, eds., Philosophical Perspectives on the Self, Peter Lang 2015: 21-40 Yes
Olson (Eric) Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 13 (Olson) Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Olson (Eric) - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 13 (Olson) 21%
Olson (Eric) Psychology and Personal Identity Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract The Human Animal, September 1999, Chapter 1, pp. 7-21 Yes
Olson (Eric) The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology Book - Referencing (via Paper Referencing) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Olson (Eric) The Remnant-Person Problem Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Blatti & Snowdon - Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity, 2016: Part II, Chapter 7, pp. 145-161 50%
Olson (Eric) Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract The Human Animal, September 1999, Chapter 3, pp. 42-72 Yes
Puccetti (Roland) Brain Transplants and Personal Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Analysis 29.3, 1969, pp. 65-77 No
Puccetti (Roland) Mr. Brennan on Person's Brains Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Analysis 31.1, 1970, pp. 30-32 No
Puccetti (Roland) Remembering the Past of Another Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2 (4), June 1973: 523-532. No
Rorty (Amelie), Ed. The Identities of Persons Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Rorty (Amelie), Ed. - The Identities of Persons 33%
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction Book - Referencing (via Paper Referencing) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 3 Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 2 Yes
Smart (Brian) Personal Identity in an Organized Parcel Paper - By Subtopic Philosophical Studies: Vol. 24, No. 6 (Nov., 1973), pp. 420-423 No
Snowdon (Paul) Brain Transplants, Animals, and Us Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 10 13%
Snowdon (Paul) Personal Identity and Brain Transplants Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Cockburn - Human Beings, 1991 Yes
Snowdon (Paul) Persons, Animals, Ourselves Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves 21%
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Transplants Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Chimera Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Death Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Van Inwagen (Peter) Brain Transplants Paper - By Subtopic Van Inwagen - Material Beings; 1990; Ch. 15 Yes
Van Inwagen (Peter) Material Beings Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings 40%
Wiggins (David) Locke, Butler and the Stream of Consciousness: And Men as Natural Kind Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophy, Vol. 51, No. 196 (Apr., 1976), pp. 131-158 Yes



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