X-Message-Number: 4488
Date: 09 Jun 95 09:30:50 EDT
From: Jim Davidson <>
Subject: Whole bodies

In a recent post, the subject came up of neurological activity in parts of the

body well-separated from the head.  That post together with preconceived notions
of my own, stimulated me to apply for sufficient insurance to cover whole body
preservation rather than neuro-only.

Am I my head, my body, or something else?  Insufficient evidence leads me to
dismiss, for now, the likelihood that I am anything outside my body.  I have no

experience of a point of view external to my body, although I'm told that it can
be done and often occurs in near-death experiences among others.

But am I "in" my head, or is there more to me than my head?  Clearly the latter
is the case.  While the head is vital, it is clearly not the seat of reflex.
The spinal cord seems to hold most of the information relating to reflexes,
whether these are instinctive danger-avoidance reflexes or learned physical
skill reflexes.  I don't think the hand movements associated with rapid typing

or high-speed athletic activities are entirely directed from the brain.  Some of
them happen much too immediately upon local stimulus for there to be much
cranial involvement.

If there is much more to me than my brain, how much more is there?  By mass,
quite a lot.  These hands, these arms, these legs, these organs are all me.  I

identify myself with them, as well as with my face and head and neck.  Moreover,
taken as a set, they define me as a human being.

A human head is recognizable as such, but is clearly not a human being.  Even
supported and active, as depicted in a variety of fiction, such an entity is no
longer human though it derives from human source material.  It is no more
complete than a disembodied arm or leg would be.

A human being can exist without access to their other limbs, but it is a

significantly curtailed lifestyle for most quadriplegics.  Even paraplegics have
radically modified lifestyles.

Of course, in the future, all these issues are irrelevant.  By the time we can
be restored from liquid nitrogen temperatures our entire bodies can be rebuilt.
Oh, really?  The physical trauma of decapitation is inconsequential compared to
that of low temperature?  That seems optimistic at best.

I'd be interested in other perspectives on this age-old question.


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