If a person was born and live without see/communicate with other people (his mother also), can He have self-awareness? and think about the death?

  • 1
    If he cannot communicate, it is hard to know "what he can think". See e.g. The Savage boy of Aveyron. Nov 29, 2017 at 11:09
  • This question really needs to be cleaned up, but you would have to make a lot of assumptions in order to be reasonably confident that communication is impossible. See Helen Keller for more detail on that. Nov 29, 2017 at 11:56
  • Language is required, which presupposes some sort of society.
    – Gordon
    Nov 29, 2017 at 13:10
  • Even if he had self-awareness, how would someone who has not spoken to others know he is going to die? He could only possibly know other things die.
    – user9166
    Nov 30, 2017 at 0:16

1 Answer 1


Interestingly, this sounds similar to a thought experiment I've developed to explain some concepts around machine awareness. To summarise;

If you were able to put all your memories and experience on a hard disk, would that HDD be aware? No, because it's a static collection of data that does not have any interactions with the external world.

If (on the other hand) you put a new born baby in a sensory deprivation chamber so that it has no contact at all with the outside world (we're assuming it's fed intravenously) and leave it there for 20 yrs, is the resultant human sentient?

The answer is no. The resultant human is conscious, but possesses no information upon which it can build the concepts of meaning that we take for granted as humans. In that sense, sentience (I'm using this word because I use 'awareness' in very specific ways in this topic) has to be a combination of consciousness (an 'always on' ability to sense new information and integrate it with existing internal concepts) and those same internal concepts that build up over years of development.

In our early development as children, we learn language, mathematics and several other structured concepts for categorising the sensory inputs we receive and building an internal ontology of meaning from it all. It's not until about the age of 2 (in normal development) that a child begins to see him or her self as separate from the parents; that sense of self awareness is not 'programmed' into the human brain. Also, unless you've seen death or had it explained to you, how would you know it exists?

Based on these aspects, if a human child does not have the ability to interact with its surroundings in any form, the sense of self and the understanding of death are unlikely to have formed.

  • Based on the Bulgarian orphanage data, I'd say the child won't live even if fed intravenously ...
    – virmaior
    Nov 30, 2017 at 0:46
  • @virmaior; you're right of course. We're looking at this as a purely hypothetical scenario. Don't try this at home, people.
    – Tim B II
    Nov 30, 2017 at 1:13
  • @Tim B: Thank you for your answer. So, If there is no self-awareness, He will never ask some thing like "Who am I?", it means "I / me" is actually not existed by itself. Honestly, I fear of that.
    – Thach
    Nov 30, 2017 at 6:40
  • Hi Thach. The concept of 'I' still needs to be discovered. No sensory input means no 'cracks in the ice' so to speak that give one a frame of reference in order to compare and build upon new concepts. Your internal conceptual frameworks start with things like I and YOU and then build to things like YES and NO, and then we start in with needs, language and it starts to snowball from there. This person is still capable of learning all this; they just haven't done so yet.
    – Tim B II
    Nov 30, 2017 at 6:54
  • @TimB: Sorry for reply late, I'd like to revise this question. What happen when instead of single person, we place two babies in that environment? Will they communicate ? And develop their self-awareness?
    – Thach
    Dec 4, 2017 at 1:24

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