Anesthesia and consciousness

Super cool paper:


This does raise a question. If consciousness is not a kind of material process, one has to wonder why a drug would make you lose consciousness.

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Substance dualists or those who believe in the soul would say the soul’s natural state is Being connected to a human body and therefore dependent on that body. It can’t function without a brain or the supernatural intervention of God.

The example I see used a lot is that of a pianist and piano. If the piano is broke and the pianist can’t play his music, that doesn’t mean the pianist doesn’t exist.

Doesn’t make much sense to me. Why would it be dependent on the brain and body? God did it that way. Why? Well he just did! Why do you think so?

If consciousness isn’t run by the brain, why don’t you just remain conscious but lose control over your body? If the body and brain is supposed to be a sort of flesh-robot merely controlled by the soul, with the brain as a sort of receiver, shouldn’t servering this connection then just leave you conscious but without access to your material senses? Apparently not.
Why? Well because God! That answer is just ad-hoc nonsense. God just made it that way! Why? Well because I need to provide an “answer” to the question, I have no actual reason other than an a priori commitment to the idea of an immaterial soul, for thinking it’s the sort of thing a God would do when creating immaterial souls.

But the whole point here is that the music(consciousness) isn’t being performed by the physical piano(brain), but by the the pianist himself(the immaterial soul). So I’m still left without an explanation for why alterations to the piano, which is NOT how the music is made, should make the music stop.


Doesn’t this question presuppose that theism entails our knowledge of all of God’s reasons for all of his actions? Why believe this?

I don’t think we have to know what God would do, to pose the question why anyone would suppose God did it some particular way. We can recognize badly motivated and ad-hoc reasoning when we see it.

But when it comes to the major theistic religions of the world, they say you go on to a second life (be it in heaven, hell, or purgatory) after your body dies. Most of the major theistic religions are big on the afterlife stuff. The idea seems to be that the soul leaves the body and you enter into the afterlife. Innumerable theists believe you may even be conscious while this happens, as you enter into a tunnel and see white light at the end. I think we can agree you don’t bring your actual brain with you.

I believe the traditional Christian belief is you live a disembodied life until Jesus’ return then you are given your new resurrected body. Your conciousness Is keep in existence by God in that intermediate state. I believe it’s along those lines

Except that many of these same people believe that, after death, the soul rises off the body with the ability to see, hear and use all the other senses, then drifts off to join its grandparents in heaven.

How does that work?

Don’t forget the 72 virgins. You’d have to figure out on your own why that would be a desirable thing without physical senses. And innumerable believers believe in things like ghosts, as in optically visible but immaterially bodied people who died, but now go on living in this alternate form, walking around, looking like they did when they were alive.

None of it makes sense.



This is going to be a very metaphysical tangent … but I don’t know anything more metaphysical to discuss than CONSCIOUSNESS.

Consciousness is the ultimate mystery!

And so… I am going to throw speculation right into the winds!

!) What if the Brain is just as much a PIPELINE, a CHANNEL, as much as it is a processor of thoughts?

  1. And what if the other end of the channel or pipeline is the soul … operating on a different dimensional plane … someplace where causality is completely alien to our 4 dimensional existence we already know?

  2. In this other dimensional existence, thoughts happen, the soul IS … and we all return to that once we end our existence here?

Who knows, right?

Two things:

  1. Even with physical senses that wouldn’t be enjoyable. Who wants to hear “ow, that hurts. Slow down.” 72 times

  2. Most religions believe they will eventually have new bodies. So they will have physical senses.


That is exactly the claim that we are assessing here, and to which the above objections have been raised.

Have you any response to those objections?

I’ve got two legs
From my hips to the ground
And when I move them they walk around
And when I lift them they climb the stairs
And when I shave them they ain’t got hairs…

But who or what is actually moving his legs?

This belief is based on pure imagination. Nobody knows if this is really the case or whose version of this story is the right one.

But the pianist doesn’t stop functioning, just because the piano has temporarily stopped functioning. For example, they can go on humming the tune until somebody fixes the piano again.

For the analogy to work, you’d have to explain why the soul appears to temporarily stop functioning when the body (and thus the brain) does. If ‘you’ are your soul rather than just your brain, then why do ‘you’ lose consciousness, rather than just losing access to your senses and your motor functions? The analogy does not seem in any way apt.

Yeah who knows, and who knows if there is really a guy called Santa Claus mass producing gifts to satisfy the wish list of kids who have not been naughty this year. Just saying.

The substance dualist would say because if the brain dies, the soul dies. Unless it’s kept in existence by God.

The non theist substance dualist would say the mind dies if the brain dies. No different than a physicalist perspective. On substance dualism the mind is still completely dependent on the brain. I’m not a substance dualist but I don’t see these as challenges to the position.

As far as the analogy I think it works fine. If he piano is broke, the pianist can no longer play. If the brain is broke, the mind can no longer “play”.

But we’re not talking about being (permanently) broken in the case of anesthesia, we’re talking about it being temporarily inoperable. How does this analogise to a piano player and piano? The player doesn’t temporarily cease to be, just because the piano is temporarily inaccessible.


Let’s test this purported analogy by flipping it. If the piano player couldn’t be seen (or otherwise directly detected – as is the case with the mind), and had never been observed to do anything other than playing that one piano (as is the case with the mind and the brain), could we reasonably conclude that a piano player existed, in some way independent of the piano, rather than the piano simply being a particularly sophisticated player-piano?

Hmm. I thought I understood this stuff somewhat. Now I’m not so sure.

Is it possible for the mind to “die” and leave the brain still functioning? Would that result in the equivalent of a P-zombie?

What does (or can) the mind do after the brain dies, in this model?

Depends if you are or a theist or not. Everything I’ve read by Christian substance dualists suggests they think without the physical brain the soul or mind could not function. The only way it could function Normally is if it was being supernaturally made to by God. This is what those who
Believe their is an intermediate state between our death and resurrected bodies believe. That God is keeping our brainless souls in existence until they are reunited with our resurrected bodies.

If you aren’t a theist the brain dies, the mind dies.

Good question. Not sure.