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Are you still human when you're under general anesthesia?

I'm getting knocked out for my outpatient surgery on Tuesday, and it occurs to me whether I'm a higher order creature while I'm unconscious. (My wife might argue that I'm never one.) I wonder because there's apparently no subjective time between when you go under and come back, including dreaming. If that's the case, and if it's our self-conscious nature that separates us from the rest of the kingdom, then am I technically (i.e., not simply physiologically) human during that time?

What do you think? Any good references you like around this topic?

Wish me luck!

Reader Comments (7)

I'd say you're still human, you're just not a person when you're unconscious.

That's what the law says, anyway; your doctors or next-of-kin can make decisions for you when you're unconscious because you're not legally a person.

The same question applies to beginning-of-life (when does a baby become a person?) and end-of-life (are brain-dead people "persons"?) situations.

Oh, and good luck! (or God Bless, if you believe that unconscious humans are still "persons" because they have a Soul)

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGavin Andresen

Interesting that corporations are PEOPLE, but not HUMAN (something I think took the country downhill, no?) How about a 2x2: human vs. person

0,0: ??
0,1: corporations
1,0: person under general anesthesia
1,1: :-)

Good to hear from you.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

I don't believe that much in the "outside world", I must say. After all, we all live our whole lives in first person, there is no "outside" (but only abstractions we make, useful as predictive models). Nobody can get out of one's own head and senses, so there is no objective reality to reach, only a couple of meeting points, of agreed conventions.
I hope your operation goes smooth and simple.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Jordi

Hi Matt,

Here is an interesting article I read last month that references your question: [ Being a Person: The Insufficiency of Personhood | http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/01/06/being-a-person-the-insufficiency-of-personhood/#more-11229 ]. All the best with your surgery.

Ray Fowler

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRay Fowler

Whoops, here is a better link for that article (the other link starts you half-way through the article). [ Being a Person: The Insufficiency of Personhood | http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/01/06/being-a-person-the-insufficiency-of-personhood/ ]

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRay Fowler

Hm! So if you are saying that the inner world is all there is personally, which I agree with, then the time we're /out/ is very important, no?

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Wow - a mind blower, Ray. 100% on topic. Much obliged.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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