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Rights and Self-Consciousness Essay


Different philosophers’ approaches to the concept of human consciousness and the thought process are unique. Some of them believed that thought was an indicator of consciousness and existence, and for someone, a simple way of thinking was not enough. Their opinions about how the human mind works are different; the analysis of specific approaches can help develop a rather exciting topic and reveal the relationship between the thought process and what people call life. For this purpose, a deductive method is suited best, that is, the search for the truth through an analysis from the general sense to separate points.

Descartes’ Arguments Concerning Mind and Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness is a person’s assessment of himself or herself as a thinking individual subject. According to Descartes, the existence of the body without consciousness is impossible since the philosopher considers this situation not only from theological but also a scientific point of view. The author noted that the human body was like a container that was filled with life (Descartes). Consequently, if anyone removed all living things from this container, it would remain empty and useless. Such a theory of the separation of consciousness is also actively used today.

According to Descartes, the only thing given to a person is a fact of thinking, which is achieved through understanding and self-awareness. For the philosopher, the mind was considered the highest value, and he repeatedly highlighted that only through his thoughts could he understand the world around him and appreciate the importance of human existence (Descartes). This approach is one of the most famous today and is regularly interpreted and cited by many modern philosophers.

Deductions to Reveal Descartes’ Approach

In order to show how the deductive method based on Descartes’ theory of human consciousness looks, it is possible to apply it on the example of a computer to prove that an inanimate organism has no self-consciousness and mind. For example:

  • If computers have mind, they have thoughts.
  • Computers do not have thoughts.
  • Consequently, computers do not have mind.

It is possible to make another example of similar deduction:

  • If computers have feelings, they have mind.
  • Computers do not have feelings.
  • Accordingly, computers do not have mind.

Connection Between Rights and Self-Consciousness

Rights are an integral part of a free and equal society. Hobbes viewed human beings as the main bearers of rights and believed that it was people who influenced the world order (Baumgold 25). The philosophy of such a type is typical for many modern scientists; however, Hobbes was one of the first who initiated the political idea that exists today. His theory concerning people and their rights is inextricably connected with such modern terms as conservatism and radicalism (Baumgold 25). Therefore, the philosopher’s influence on the formation of politics is significant.

Also, there is a relationship between the possibility of having rights and self-consciousness. It is quite difficult to imagine that people who are incapable of thinking and concluding can use their rights and regard freedom as something vital. Probably, the higher the level of self-awareness a particular person has, the more opportunities he or she has to dispose of rights according to personal motives and interests. Thus, the link between these two concepts is quite evident and can be explained with the help of deductions.

Deductions to Present Computers as Possible Bearers of Rights

In order to try to consider an inanimate organism, for example, a computer, as a potential bearer of rights, it is possible to make several deductions. Each of them is designed to show whether it is real to evaluate an object without self-consciousness as the one that can have personal rights. These deductions can be as follows:

  • If computers have rights, they can ask for freedom.
  • Computers cannot ask for freedom.
  • Consequently, computers have no rights.

Another deduction to reveal the lack of relationship between machines and rights is as follows:

  • If computers are interested in observing their laws, they have rights.
  • Computers are not interested in observing their laws.
  • Accordingly, computers have no rights.

Personal Identity and Reasoning about Neuro-Prosthetic Replacement

Personal identity is an indicator of human interests and preferences and, to a certain extent, can withstand physical changes. For example, according to Ryle, people’s awareness of the characteristics of their personality and the opportunities that can be achieved through this understanding helps prevent any potential changes in organisms (166). For example, the ability of auto-suggestion and persuasion allows slowing down the aging process and ensuring that the body reacts to specific commands that the brain gives.

As it is known, a person’s personality is determined by his or her experience and knowledge and develops due to acquired properties. In the process of development, the brain activity is an essential feature, and a potential neuro-prosthetic replacement may save a person’s life, but certainly will not allow him or her to remain the same as before. The fact is that the information stored in the brain, in particular, memory is one of the key attributes that determine the human personality (Schore 177). Therefore, in case of a replacement, any person will turn into an ordinary living organism that has no signs of mind.

Accordingly, if the brain is subject to replacement, a person will almost certainly not remain the same as before. All the accumulated information that is stored by the neurons of the brain will be lost, and a human shell with a new brain will be almost entirely useless. Jackson remarks that the actual world is mainly physical (291). Nevertheless, the lack of experience and self-consciousness will likely not give a person an opportunity to perceive the environment adequately and sensibly.

Deductions to Demonstrate the Connection Between Personal Identity and the Brain

Possible deductions that help to reflect the relationship between personal identity and the brain are an excellent way to assess any potential link. Thus, in the process of drawing up such schemes, no connection was found. Here are the following deductions:

  • If a person has a neuro-prosthetic replacement, experience and knowledge remain.
  • Together with the replacement of the brain, self-consciousness disappears.
  • Accordingly, if a person has a neuro-prosthetic replacement, experience and knowledge do not remain.

Here is another possible deduction:

  • Personal identity is preserved with a neuro-prosthetic replacement.
  • A neuro-prosthetic replacement changes perceptions.
  • Consequently, personal identity is not preserved with a neuro-prosthetic replacement.

Analysis of the Simulated Consciousness

The simulated consciousness called Nu-Me cannot be viewed as a system with a personal identity. The reasons for the separation of mind from the body can be different, for example, it is a desire for technical progress or attempts to learn the secret of the human mind. According to Descartes, to determine whether this or that entity has self-consciousness, it is possible to use a simple technique to assess the degree of skills acquired over a lifetime. Artificial system is unlikely to succeed in it. It can be noted that to have consciousness, it is required to represent a particular type of behavior, that is, to demonstrate not only the ability to think complexly but also show relevant skills obtained through experience and analysis.

Nu-Me can hardly be considered a person. The concept of whether to endow such a system with rights is controversial. As Ryle notes, the artificial mind does not need to be aware of its rights and freedoms in the context of the surrounding world (166). Consequently, such a system does not want rights that are necessary for a thinking human being. Therefore, the nature of a person is inextricably linked not only with self-consciousness but also with the use of rights and freedoms.

If I had to transfer my experience and knowledge to an artificial consciousness like Nu-Me, I think that I would hardly have remained the same person. As Plato remarks, self-awareness is possible in the body that is ready to accept experience (8). Accordingly, the mind that will be moved from the body to the machine will not be able to function in a new shell. Also, the physiological features of the brain structure are unlikely to allow achieving a complete identity. Therefore, this idea of transferring consciousness is controversial enough.


Thus, a deductive method used by many philosophers is an efficient way of solving many problems, including the one that has to do with human self-consciousness. Attempts to analyze the opinions of well-known personalities can help in the process of assessing certain issues. The human mind has different features and properties and can be viewed from the point of view of various aspects and approaches.

Works Cited

Baumgold, Deborah. Hobbes’s Political Theory. Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Descartes, Rene. The Philosophy of Descartes: Containing the Method, Meditations, and Other Works. Edited by David B. Manley and Charles, S. Taylor. Web.

Jackson, Frank. “What Mary Didn’t Know.” The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 83, no. 5, 1986, 291-295.

Plato. The Apology of Socrates. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Dutch Renaissance Press, 2014.

Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. 60th ed., Routledge, 2009.

Schore, Allan N. Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Routledge, 2015.

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