What if a human brain was isolated from all these senses? And what if this happened before birth?
Such a brain would have no memories, no inputs, no ideas about the form or structure of the world. Unlike those unfortunate enough to have lost some senses, like the deaf or blind, such a person would have no recollections of the world around them. None. They would be incapable of even imagining an object, since they would never have experienced one. They would have no concept of communication, colors or sounds, touch or smell.
Such an individual could be kept alive, probably by artificial means and with some difficulty, since reflexes such as swallowing and breathing would probably be absent as well.
The point of this essay is not the horrific situation that this person would be in, but more to the point, would this brain even be aware of itself? Without any sensory input, would there be any thought?
After all, the brain evolved as a specialized organ designed to deal with the environment. It was tasked with the responsibility of survival, coordinating movement and metabolism to that end. In more complex species of life, it was charged with more complex duties, like language and cognition.
If such an organ was isolated from the get go, never having a chance to learn about its environment, what could it possibly think about? Those little gray cells might be firing, but there would be no need to remember anything, no need to figure anything out, no need to sleep or wake, as these actions would have no meaning. Dreams could not form.
One possibility is that such a brain would cease to function, or more accurately, would not function at all, since it would have no reason to. All well and good, and logical too. But … what of consciousness? Self-awareness? Would such a brain be aware of its existence?
I would hope not.
Then, of course, there is another possibility ... a consciousness without bounds, creating its own worlds and its own universe. Sound familiar?