Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

ebitler's picture

life after death?

Okay… so I was going to post about how I agree with Felicia about there being different types of consciousness and with Stephanie that it may be more productive to study particular aspects of consciousness rather than try to define something that our culture has made un-definable. But then I was completely blown away by the idea of consciousness after death.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that consciousness could persist after death. This is totally interesting for me to think about. And I think it’s incredible that not only did people’s consciousnesses persist (something I have heard about before as an “out-of-body” experience and hadn’t made the connection until Stephanie brought it up), but also that the consciousness of a blind man could see when not restricted by the physical limitations of the body.

I’m not sure how much faith I can really put into this anecdotal evidence. It seems reasonable to me that if a person is dying (or technically dead if their heart stops) that some brain function would continue for at least a little bit. (Does anyone know if neurons stop firing the second the heart stops? I would guess not but I really couldn’t say for sure). So I would think that during that point in time, our brains might integrate the various perceptions relayed to it or existing memories in a very different way. So it could interpret the sensory neurons firing with the most relevant information available (i.e. the information that the brain had collected just before the heart stopped and the brain was deprived of oxygen- information about the environment and hearing the technicians working to save the life). And I guess I think that could explain some of the sensations that people are experiencing and reporting. But that’s just a theory and I obviously don’t have any evidence to back that up.

The more interesting explanation is that there really is a consciousness that is separate from our brains, and that persist after the death of the organ. I’m not really sure what I think about this as it’s sort of a topic that requires a certain type of faith. But I do definitely think it’s an interesting idea. It hadn’t really occurred to me that we don’t see because our eyes have neuronal inputs to our brains that reconstruct the data to provide a sense, but rather that we see because our eyes provide an input mechanism to a consciousness that requires such a mechanism when contained in our bodies. And if that’s the case, it makes me wonder what happens to the consciousness when it’s separated from the brain. We have some accounts of its visual perspective immediately after death from the patients who were revived. But does it stay with the body forever? Or more specifically the brain? And what does that mean for all the brains of humans that are removed for scientific research (something I watched in person today- very “interesting”)?

Again I’m not really sure that I believe any of this, but I certainly think it’s interesting to think about and I’d be curious to hear if other people have thoughts about a consciousness separate from brain.

Thanks for an interesting topic!



To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
1 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.