As a sort of thought experiment trying to go to the farthest lengths of knowing oneself from the distractions of this world, I wanted to know what it would be like for a person that was born with none of the five senses at all and none of the motor skills too, say, something happened in the nerves that carried out both these functions both the voluntary motor skills and the sensory neurons just aren't working and communicating everything except for the autonomous nervous system i.e., the heart. This hypothetical person can't even breathe and doctors had required machine assisted breathing, they had also plugged a catheter to supply with glucose and water and everything else for simple human survival and this baby has been alive like this for a while now (simply put, someone who has been in a coma since birth on life support), years pass and its been say 5-10 years.

Now I didn't know if this was more of a philosophical question or more biological question(neuroscience) but what would it be like for this person, would there be thoughts, I mean they don't know what language is? No sense of logic or any sort of input or output? (I like to think of this experiment as of a CPU without any sense of I/O just the CPU) I was also concerned will there be changes at all over time (i.e., development)? And would this "person" still be considered human? Say if scientists discovered a way later in the future(say when this 'person' is 40-50 years old) to return this person's ability to sense as well as interact with the world, would there be anything different other than overload of sensations? Would there be anything totally different this person could tell us, if we taught him a language? I know that when a person is alone for a long time that hallucinations start to happen to occupy the mind but in this instance could this person's mind even create such hallucinations since there is no past experience to create hallucinations upon. Would this 'person' even sleep? Would they dream and if they did what would the dream be like? Because again, dreams need the real world as a reference (in some way)?

Would death be different from this person's 'life'? Would one say that this person lived? Or even was? Would he know he was living?

I should also mention that this experiment came as a result of my trial to understand if the mind-body duality that Descartes' suggests is accurate and true and to also find what true subjectivity would be like i.e., someone that isn't influenced by their society i.e., someone influenced 'completely' by nature and not the slightest bit by 'nurture'.

  • Assuming it's biologically possible in order to make your philosophical effort in mind-body dualism non-vacuous, such a person is probably still not a p-zombie due to pure awareness of their mind. Neurons unfunctional for the usual five senses could conceivably be recombined and function in other possible ways to try to receive perceptions from outside world to make and reify sense, and on the contrary such person may have exceptional ability to directly sense whether it's good or bad around the immediate environment to subsist his or her extremely abnormal and fragile life... Commented Feb 11 at 5:28
  • I don't see how the reconfiguration of neurons to create different perception other than what the senses we have now could be possible but that is purely neuroscientific and maybe we just don't know yet. But also say that this person is not a p-zombie but the question I am asking is would they have a pure awareness of mind, even after assuming they are not a p-zombie.
    – How why e
    Commented Feb 11 at 5:50
  • Per the definition alone of p-zombie: ... but does not have conscious experience, a non p-zombie must have subjective conscious experience that is self-aware and introspective compatible with Descartes' dualism, and many animals with neurons are known to have different senses than human's... Commented Feb 11 at 6:08
  • Okay, I understand but that is where the root of my question rests. In my case, is there a way that this person could not be a p-zombie, would this person have an awareness of mind in the state they are in.
    – How why e
    Commented Feb 11 at 8:04
  • 1
    It's like sleep without any dreaming. Commented Feb 15 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


They called him Subject Zero. But, inside that sealed environment, behind the wires sustaining his frail body, was he a 'him' at all? No light had ever kissed his unseeing eyes, nor sound dared violate the void around him. No touch, no scent, no sense of where his physical being began and the sterile machinery ended. If a mind flickered to life in that darkness, what would it find?

The neural reports showed…not nothing. Electrical storms raged without structure, patterns looping on repeat like a glitched machine. Raw signals of hunger, the relentless pulse, the intrusion of tubes he had no concept to understand. A mind trapped in the heartbeat of its own prison.

The decades slipped by. Not years, not seasons, concepts a body deprived of the world outside would never grasp. If time existed here, it did so only in the rhythm of a heart measured by indifferent monitors.

Then came the shift. The impossible whispered about in hallowed academic halls. A way to pierce that sensory desert, to turn on the switch of experience. The moment of ignition promised not only knowledge but an almost cruel awakening.

Light exploded behind sealed lids, an onslaught of chaos. Sound crashed into his universe, a meaningless clamor. Scents that were like acid against nerve endings with no reference point. Pressure turned against his skin as something shifted and he was—moved? It was all too much, overwhelming and without an escape.

They say his brain went incandescent under the force, neural pathways scrambling to process, find patterns, to build meaning where there had been only raw noise. It burned too brightly, and then fizzled, the darkness falling once more.

Was Subject Zero truly gone? He existed. His heart ticked on. Had there been a person to lose? When they pulled the tubes, there was no gasp, no fight, just an emptying. The body was only ever that – a shell without an anchor to the world. They learned…something. But at what cost to a life that flickered unseen, unfelt, and utterly unknowable except as a question mark carved into the very core of what it means to 'be'.

  • I like this "excerpt"/"art", where is it from? Is it a movie? A book? I would like to know more about the writer and his philosophical stance on 'being'.
    – How why e
    Commented Feb 11 at 4:40

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