At What Point are We No Longer Human? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Question:

What is the point at which we are no longer human?
• Is it when enough of our physical body is removed?
• Or when the brain no longer functions, but to what level?
• Or if our brains can be kept alive and we can still think and communicate?
• Or even when our consciousness can be moved to a computer?
• Even if our brain was transplanted into another animal?

Response:

At no point in any layer of your nicely constructed thought experiment, is there an inherent state of humanity. A physical body in and of itself is not human. A brain in and of itself is not a human. A consciousness in and of itself is not a human. The underlying pattern here is that there is no inherent underlying “anything” – or to use the Buddhist terminology – all things are empty of inherent existence.

All things are impermanent. Forms are endlessly shifting; blending from one state to another; completely and inextricably interdependent. Where a person ends and the environment around her begins is utterly indiscernible. You will never find “it”.

That said, we are perfectly capable of operating within this framework, that’s never been at question. It’s only when we become, as Daniel Dennett terms it, greedy reductionists, that we get disturbed by these kinds of questions.

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Modern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important than their answers.

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ― G.K. Chesterton

Dialectic Two Step, Modern Koans, Verse Us, Say What?, and Minute Meditations all copyright Andrew Furst

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Andrew Furst

Author of two books, Poet, Meditation Teacher, Buddhist blogger, backup guitarist for his teenage boys, lucky husband and technologist
Andrew Furst
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