Specifically, Egnor asks, if your head were transplanted, would your soul
go with it? Because a human head transplant would induce quadriplegia, many of the philosophical questions are currently theoretical — but fascinating nonetheless:
Head transplantation has not been done on humans. Not because it wouldn’t work — it would be technically easier on humans than on monkeys because humans are bigger so things would be easier to sew. It has not been done on humans because, in order to transplant a head, you must cut the spinal cord, which causes permanent paralysis. Head transplantation causes quadriplegia. There is no real medical benefit in creating a quadriplegic patient — it might preserve life but at the expense of total paralysis. This question occasionally arises in neurosurgery in a different context. The consensus is that deliberate imposition of a catastrophic neurological disability is unacceptable, even if it may save life. With rare exceptions, we don’t deliberately make people blind or paralyzed or comatose, even to prolong life.
An ethical case for head transplantation could be made in the case of an already quadriplegic patient who had multiple organ failure and who would die otherwise. This is a rare scenario.
Head transplantation is interesting from a metaphysical perspective. It’s a question that would have interested Dr. Frankenstein: Imagine that spinal cord repair were feasible and patients would not be rendered paralyzed. If heads were successfully switched, where would the souls end up? Is the soul in the brain, in the body, in both, or in neither? Two people would still exist after switching heads. But who would be who? Where would the souls go — with the brains or with the bodies?
As with so many metaphysical questions about the mind-body relationship, we need first to understand the meaning of the words we use.Michael Egnor, “Are head transplants soul transplants?” at Mind Matters News
You may also wish to read: Your soul has no “Off” switch It’s an intriguing and important question and you may be surprised by some of the answers. (Michael Egnor)