Seeking info on human brain wave patterns ( EEG )

Dave Seaman ds005c at UHURA.CC.ROCHESTER.EDU
Thu Dec 28 22:13:47 EST 1995

>    I am currently working on a theory of personhood and its defining
>characteristics and desperately need expert information on comparative
>brain wave patterns between "normal" conscious humans, sleeping humans,
>higher order primates, such as chimpanzees, mentally handicapped
>children, comatose humans ( not braindead ), and human fetuses.
>    The theory I am working on rejects the commonsense notion of
>personhood proposed by philosophers such as Joel Feinberg as it omits too
>many individuals which we regularly accord the natural rights of
>persons.  In a move of extreme reductionism I am seeking to isolate one
>defining characteristic which would conclusively determine the personhood
>or nonpersonhood of the subject in question.  I believe the key to this
>may lie in human brainwave patterns.

You're right, this is extreme reductionism.  You're still masquerading
primarily as a philosopher, not as a scientist (I say this without a
critical tone, merely to get the point across).  You're disregarding the
fact that "person" is a concept, word, or what have you, that has been
created by humans.  It has no relevance to the real world other than how it
is defined.
        Not to mention that it is fairly ridiculous to try to find any
abstract characteristic easily identifiable in an EEG.  At least, if there
is such a pattern, you really couldn't find it by comparing monkeys,
fetuses, and adult humans.  There are simply going to be differences in
these organisms' EEG's as a result of their biology, or perhaps as a result
of their biology, there will be no differences.  But that couldn't really
come close to defining "personhood" for you-you'd have to say, "Oh, there
are some differences between a monkey's EEG and a human's.  Well, I'm going
to define personhood as having a the characteric human EEG."  The problem,
is, again, that 'personhood' is an arbitrary categorization of certain
levels of complexity in brain organization, function, and structure.  There
may be correllations, but all it would confirm is that we, the arbitrators,
had some intuition about certain things being complex in brain function,
and some things not being as complex as we are.

David Seaman
University of Rochester
ds005c at

"I enjoy research more than eating."

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