Who Would the Person Be after a Head Transplant? A Confucian Reflection

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-229
Journal / PublicationThe Journal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number2
Online published16 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022



This essay draws on classical Confucian intellectual resources to argue that the person who emerges from a head transplant would be neither the person who provided the head, nor the person who provided the body, but a new, different person. We construct two types of argument to support this conclusion: one is based on the classical Confucian metaphysics of human life as qi activity; the other is grounded in the Confucian view of personal identity as being inseparable from one's familial relations. These Confucian ideas provide a reasonable alternative to the currently dominant view that one's personal identity "follows" one's head. Together, these arguments imply that head transplantation is ethically inappropriate.

Research Area(s)

  • Confucianism, familial relationalism, head transplant, personal identity, qi

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