Human brain wave patterns ( EEG ) and personhood

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>To:=09neur-sci at
>From:=09JOHN PARRISH THOMPSON <gsi03919 at>
>Subject:  Human brain wave patterns ( EEG ) and personhood
>Date:=09Thu, 28 Dec 1995 12:13:36 -0300
>Message-ID: <Pine.A32.3.91.951228095232.41000A-
>100000 at>
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>                  <gsi03919 at>), 
>You wrote:
><    I am currently working on a theory of personhood and its defining=
><characteristics and desperately need expert information on comparativ=
><brain wave patterns between "normal" conscious humans, sleeping human=
><higher order primates, such as chimpanzees, mentally handicapped 
><children, comatose humans ( not braindead ), and human fetuses.
>  Surely you have a conceptual error, that of presuppossing that perso=
>might be apprehended in general.  That mistake is a widespread prefigu=
>of our European-based culture, and most people in your country -even t=
>saying to do philosophy-  subscribe to it.  The reason is that the Pyt=
>Parmenidean tradition declared that there can be science only of the g=
>as a part of its struggle against time (needed for the production of s=
>services of consolation, and so entered into most theological dogmata =
>commonsense).  Contrarily, personhood is to be defined through cadacua=
>or Jemeiningkeit, a concept for which not even an English word still e=
>(*my-own-owness* has been essayed without success).  Of course an
>answer such as this ought to be a surprise to you and you shall find n=
>other reference in your context; so you can sacrifice truth for social=
>gruency, or viceversa.
>You continued explaining:
><    My central question revolves around whether it is possible with 
><todays technology for a trained neurobiologist or neuropsychologist t=
><examine an electroencephalagram of the above listed subjects and 
><determine from the patterns only if the subject is human?  For exampl=
><is to possible to look only at the EEG of a human fetus and conclusiv=
><differentiate it from that of a chimpanzee?  Or say the EEG of a coma=
><human opposed to that of a chimpanzee?
>Here you asked for a completely different question, viz., if the GENER=
AL features
>of Homo sp. brain functioning can be ascertained on EEG grounds. (Such=
>general features, now of course, have nothing to do with the idiosyncr=
>particulars determining personhood.)  The answer is no: among parallel=
>corresponding states of the different species you mentioned, the diffe=
>do not allow electroencephalographically to distinguish species.  But,=
>think that even a -still unattainable- direct depiction of the EEG and=
 MEG sources
>could solely provide information about volummetric charge concentratio=
>sion states, which is directly incident only onto Function 1 (shaping =
the structures
>of the neurocognitive contents).  Function 2 (opening the physical pha=
se for mental
>spaces) and Function 3 (differentially producing the non-structural, o=
>characterizations) could by no means be described in said depiction.
><    The theory I am working on rejects the commonsense notion of 
><personhood proposed by philosophers such as Joel Feinberg 
>Let me opine that it would be best to form opinion about the different=
>in the field, not about further footnotes to Plato...
><as it omits too 
><many individuals which we regularly accord the natural rights of pers=
>If you accord them, those right are not natural. If they are natural y=
ou not need
>accord them. 
><In a move of extreme reductionism I am seeking to isolate one 
><defining characteristic which would conclusively determine the person=
><or nonpersonhood of the subject in question.  
>To this aim you need to jump over the PP tradition, but your mail show=
s you
>not enough critical of the prefigurations of such traditions so as to =
>such jumping.  By the way: Since this metaphysical arcane is an =93exi=
>finding, it is not to be confused with the unrelated Western Scholasti=
c notion 
>of =93ipseity=94.  This last is a =93contraction=94 of postulated pre-=
existing entities, viz., 
>ideal essences (but, nevertheless, deemed =93corruptible=94; this is w=
hy their pos-
>sible =93multiplicative corruption=94 is relevant), into their respect=
ive =93my-owness=94. 
>That contractive ipseity is ad hoc aimed to limit the multiplication o=
f those as-
>sumed ideal essences while recognizing that of =93their=94 individuals=
, without ap-
>proaching the converse problem of their eventual inner sameness; and, =
so, it 
>results equally unable to positively grasp the singular =93individuing=
=94 either by 
>form or by the =93materia signata quatitate=94.
><I believe the key to this may lie in human brainwave patterns.
>It seems to me that you disregards Function 2 and Function 3 because y=
>confessed extreme reductionism tried to build a homme machine, purely
>structural, and then to ask for an untenable *generic personhood* of s=
>Turing machine. 
>< Any information which any subscribers to this service may be able to=
><me would be greatly appreciated even if it is only to tell me that my=
 ideas may 
><be feasible
>Would you even more appreciate a subscriber saying you that your ideas=
>too much philosophically scrambled to envisage an operational neurosci=
><but no one has conducted the necessary comparative research which wou=
><be required to conclusively answer my question.
>Please never jump again on questioning what your question operationall=
>means and how its operation defines what you are wondering for, beyond
>what your instrumental concepts say about it.
><    Please e-mail me personally rather than posting to this newsgroup=
><Sincerely, Parrish Thompson.
>I am sending this answer to you but I think your intervention furnishe=
s an
>stimulating experience, which is just one of the purposes of the list.=
 So I
>am posting it simultaneously to both Neuroscience at and to
>Filosofia at (in this last, foreign forum most netters are sor=
>on summer holidays).  
>I find valuable your intervention since it permits to remarks commonly=
>countered limitations and problems affecting the furtherance of the fi=
>In this sense let me sincerely congratulate you for having help to sig=
nal them.
>                         Yours sincerely,

       Prof. Mariela Szirko,
       <postmaster at> 
       Centro de Investig. Neurobiologicas, Ministry of
Health & Welfare, Argentine Republic; and 
       Lab. of Electroneurobiological Res., 
Hospital "Dr. Jose Tiburcio Borda", Municipality of Buenos Aires,
       Office:  Phone/Fax (54 1) 306 -7314
                e-mail <postmaster at>
       Standard disclaimer: Las opiniones de este mensaje son
personales y no comprometen las dependencias a cargo de la firmante
  Reply to THIS message,  ONLY to: <postmaster at> 

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