With a Head Transplant Surgery, Who Emerges from the Operation?

With a Head Transplant Surgery, Who Emerges from the Operation?

Two years from now we may well see the world’s first full head transplant. Italian neuroscientist, Dr Sergio Canavero hopes to perform this operation on wheelchair-bound Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a debilitating muscle-wasting disease and has volunteered for the day-long operation.

This article poses some really interesting questions about who exactly will emerge from the operation should it be successful. Will it be Spiridonov, the body donor, some mix of the two or somebody else entirely? Despite whatever philosophical, religious or scientific beliefs you might hold, the simple answer is that we really don’t know. 

There is something very disturbing to me about this operation, like we are passing through some threshold only glimpsed in science fiction and horror tales. And yet, here is a scientist talking about really attempting this procedure within the next two years. 

One of the interesting twists in this article is the reference to animalist philosophy, which I’d not heard of before. 

The animalist asserts simply:

We are animals.

Despite its plainness, (this statement) should not be taken to assert that all persons are animals; the possibilities of both non-animal people (e.g., robots, angels, aliens, deities) and human animals that are not people (e.g., patients in persistent vegetative states, human fetuses) are left open. … animalism is not the view that each of us is “constituted by” a particular organism (in the way that a statue is sometimes said to be non-identically constituted by the hunk of matter with which it coincides). Nor still should (1′) be understood to claim that each of us has a body that is an animal—as if you were one thing and your animal body another. Finally, ‘animals’ refers to biological organisms—members of the primate species Homo sapiens. While participants on both sides of the debate over animalism tend to treat these terms interchangeably, some prominent critics distinguish ‘animals’ from ‘organisms’ and deny that these terms co-refer.


#mind   #body   #soul   #animalism  

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