Consciousness, Culpability, and Cryopreservation: Practical Problems to Preserving the Person Terasem 5th Colloquium on Law of Futuristic Persons Linda MacDonald Glenn, JD, LLM, Alden March Bioethics Institute Albany Medical Center
Three Approaches to the ‘Problem’ of Consciousness • Dualism • Descartes, substance dualism, Matter vs. “Energy” (But physics has shown that matter and energy are the same) • Physicalism • different strains (property dualists, monistic realists), but maintains that all that exists is matter; consciousness refers to physical & chemical processes going on in the brain. • But Physics doesn’t answer everything – e.g. how black holes are formed; and we have yet to find a unified theory.) • PanPsychism (or Pan-Experientialism) • Mentality and physicality are two aspects of the same phenomenon; events, not just physical substances, constitute experiences
Causation and Culpability A theory of Physicalism presents other conundrums: Physical objects are spatio-temporal, and bear spatio-temporal and causal relations to each other; and while we can measure the physical neural correlates of mental states, it still remains that mental states are characterized by two main properties, subjectivity, otherwise known as privileged access, and intentionality.
Causation and Culpability • But the possessor of mental states has a privileged access to them that no-one else can share (e.g. the ‘problem of other minds’, but no corresponding ‘problem of my own mind’) • This suggests to some philosophers that minds are not ordinary occupants of physical space.
Culpability and Free Will • However, as Martine has pointed out, intentionality has particular significance in the law. To be culpable, one must have intention. • But if the mind/consciousness is reducible to a physical state, then wouldn’t all our actions be predictable? Would the concept of free will be obsolete?
The Consciousness Continuum • Correlates in the law: • Altered states of consciousness used as a defense, mitigating circumstances • Proportional autonomy • The Role of Emotion and Empathy in the Legal System (particularly in jury trials)
Consciousness and Cryogenics • Recent discoveries reveal that that complete absence of electrical activity in the brain does not prevent full neurological recovery.*1 • Legally dead does not mean "irreversibly dead“; Death is a process, not an event -- and the process takes longer than is commonly believed. Damage associated with low temperature preservation and clinical death that is not reversible today is theoretically reversible in the future. *2
A Unified Philosophy of Mind? • Pan-Experientialism may work best for AC (Artificial Consciousness) and Cryogenics • (See Charles Birch, Why I Became a Pan-Experientialist )