Ordinarily, the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain are joined by a large fiber pathway. In a “split-brain” surgery, this pathway is cut. Afterwards, and under experimental conditions, a split-brain subject may behave as if she had two conscious minds, one in each hemisphere. Many philosophers and neuropsychologists have argued that in fact she does. If that’s right, however, then why doesn’t anyone view a split-brain subject as containing or consisting of two persons, each with her own rights and responsibilities? In her talk, Elizabeth Schechter argues that self-consciousness provides the answer.
Elizabeth Schechter is assistant professor of philosophy at Washington University in Saint Louis working in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program. Her research and writing have focused extensively on the split-brain phenomenon, using it as a springboard for examining a wide range of questions about neuroscience, psychological theory, and the philosophy of mind. As the 2014–15 Philip L. Quinn Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she continued to explore the split-brain phenomenon and the questions it raises about our sense of a unified “self.”
Listen to an interview with Elizabeth Schechter about the topic on WUNC-FM’s The State of Things.