Life with no senses?

It strikes me that an interesting question is, “to what degree could we exist without our senses?” For example, let’s say you lost your vision, your hearing, your sense of smell, your taste and your sense of touch. Can we envision this kind of existence?

To some degree, we can — that’s fairly similar to what the experience of being in a sensory deprivation tank is. (You can still touch, of course, and taste, though there’s nothing particularly interesting to taste in there.) However, if we’re willing to believe the movie “Altered States” this kind of sensory deprivation can seriously trip one out.

But that’s not really depriving you of all your senses. There are many less considered but still quite important senses still at work while you are in a sensory deprivation tank. There’s the senses of our viscera — the sense of our stomach discomfort, or need to pee for example — as well as our sense of balance and awareness of gravity (determined by the vestibular system of the inner ear.) And there are things like our sense of temperature, and some subtle senses related to knowing where our limbs are in space. I’m asking, “what if ALL these senses were gone?”

You might think it would be an experience of total panic — to be trapped in a brain with no outside stimulation. But as I’ve argued in the past, emotions (like panic) ARE sensation (e.g. outside stimulation.) I think a brain in such a state would have no emotions. So what then is left of the experience of living? You would have memories, which involve ghosts of experiences, but would be incapable of any new experience. One has to wonder whether the consciousness would start to drift apart as the machinery of the mind lost any understanding of its purpose.

Here’s an even trippier thought: what if you were born with no senses? The mind would have no access to language, or structured thought (unless there’s some kind of structure imposed by the brain itself.) What would that existence be like?

Someone should take a whole lot of acid and think about this and get back to me.

2 Responses to “Life with no senses?”

  1. John Saleeby

    Life with no senses? Ace Frehley seems to have done quite well without them!

  2. John Saleeby

    Fuck you guys! That’s a good gag!