In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein imbues an inanimate, roughly-human form with life. As he states at the outset of this venture, his goal is "the creation of a human being" (Shelley 49). On animating the creature, however, Frankenstein denies its human nature and declares it a demon (Shelley 53). Unlike Frankenstein, cognitive science supports the idea of the monster as a human being in nature. Because the monster has a human brain and experiences thoughts, language, and empathy as a human does, by a cognitive science definition, Frankenstein's monster is a human.
The first assumption being made is that Frankenstein includes a human brain in the exaggerated human frame which he animates. When constructing his monster, Frankenstein describes harvesting the organs for his creation from human remains as he "collected bones from charnel-houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the secrets of the human frame" (Shelley 50) including, presumably, a brain. Also, upon waking for the first time, his creation is able to control its movements in a fashion analogous to a human, and assuming that the monster's physiology work in a fashion consistent with the constituent human parts from which it was created, these movements must be controlled by a human brain (Shelley 54).
The establishment of a human brain is important to deducing the monster's human nature because the brain is seen by modern cognitive scientists as the physical mechanism which provides the function of thought and cognition, colloquially described as "mind" (Guenther 7). Because Frankenstein used a human brain in his monster, a materialist view of cognitive science suggests that the monster would consequently have the consciousness that is a function of brain activity.
More important to the human identity of Frankenstein's monster than the ability to think is the application of its thinking. The monster's ability to use language to communicate with its creator is actually a result of a high level of cognitive functioning (Shelley 106). Linguists have long been unable to explain the "routine creativity" (Guenther 11) which language requires. The ability to create and understand new sentences without previous exposure to the exact phrasing is a function of human cognition that no other creatures can achieve (Guenther 11). As the monster describes its life after being created, it explains how it acquired its language skills by learning which words represented which objects (Shelley 129). The monster even describes its initial trouble learning the language, explaining its process of associating the pronunciation of sounds with the objects and concepts that the speakers reference (Shelley 122). This proves that the mastery of language the monster displays in his confrontation with Frankenstein is the result of a constant creative application of linguistic rules which is a defining human cognitive ability.
Beyond language, Frankenstein's monster shows a great capacity for another cognitively complex ability: empathy. When the monster spends some time watching Agatha, Felix and their father, it remarks that "when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathised in their joys" (Shelley 122). This description is a near-perfect example of the definition of empathy, "the naturally occurring subjective experience of similarity between the feelings expressed by self and others" (Decety 71). This ability to empathize is another hallmark of human cognition, described as the ability which "is considered to set us apart from other primates" (Decety 74). This shows that the monster has, from a cognitive science perspective, a human mind.
Frankenstein's monster cannot be clearly defined as human or inhuman based on the limited amount of material in Frankenstein. However, At a certain point the evidence that is provided can be applied to form a conclusion. Although the monster's cognitive abilities do not rule out the possibility of it truly being inhuman in nature, the presence of a human brain and the cognitive abilities of language and empathy strongly suggest that Frankenstein's monster is human.
Decety, Jean, and Phillip L. Jackson. "The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy." SAGE Journals. University of Washington, n.d. Web.
Guenther, R. Kim. "Human Cognition." Hamline University, n.d. Web.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lynd Ward. Frankenstein: The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.