Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum: Exploring Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Theory since 1997

JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy
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Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Hi there,

I just read JJ's Origins and some related work and can't really see the world the same way anymore. Truly fascinating. I think that an interpretation of Jaynes theory might solve a number of problems in the philosophy of mind, namely the Homunculus problem and the difficulty we have with the division of "subject" and "object." I would be curious to see what anyone on this forum has to say on my interpretation of Jaynes vis a vis the Homunculus Fallacy and the phenomenon of false awakenings:
http://thinkonthesethingstoo.wordpress. ... y-fallacy/

Thanks everyone. Cheers!

Author:  markdzima [ Sat Apr 09, 2011 2:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

I think there is a problem with distributing a single Cartesian theater across the two hemispheres of the brain: if this was how it worked, patients who have had their corpus callosum surgically severed would have their consciousness devastated, no? But this is not the case.

By the way, functional neuro-anatomist A. D. "Bud" Craig has proposed that the anterior insula of the brain may operate as a Cartesian theater (see his article: "The Sentient Self", Brain Struct Funct 2010 http://www.springerlink.com/content/kg3906823l46l022/fulltext.pdf).

I have a YouTube video that touches on how hyper-stimulation of the anterior insula during an epileptic aura has been associated with a report of heightened consciousness (see my video "A Sick Way to Heightened Consciousness" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP_62j57N2c). My YouTube channel will explore the topic further in future videos.

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Mark, thanks so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I will earnestly scrutinize the links you sent as well as your youtube page.

As I understand it, the corpus callosum is not the only structure connecting the hemispheres...there is also the anterior commissure. I think there have been some split-brain studies where both the callosum and the commisures were cut, which might be a test of my hypothesis. I am reading three books on the topic right now and hopefully will find an answer to that question.

As a personal anecdote, I have a sneaking suspicion that much of the confusion that philosophers have regarding "Reason" comes from the fact that the hommunculus fallacy picture can be rotated 90 degrees in either direction: such that the right brain could create the perspective and metaphorical space through which the content of the left brain would pass, and vice verca. Thus, you would have two faculties of conscious interiority that are exceedingly hard to differentiate sometimes because they each seem to have a remnant or trace of the other. This is why in all of the pop/new-age crap about hemispheric specialization there is often a confusion about which hemisphere has "the big picture," and so forth. I imagine the two faculties of introspection to look like the Yin/Yang, which interpenetrate each other...the black part having a small white circle inside it and vice verca. I have mapped this picture on to Plato's Socrates, Plotinus, Schopenhauer, and to a certain extent Kant...and I think it explains how they all divide up the mind. I'll post a link to my blog whenever I finish this research and write it up.

Thanks again Mark. I look forward to unwinding tonight and watching your youtube videos. Cheers man!


Author:  misterrosen [ Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Hey guys,

I'm a noob to this page/site, but not a noob to Jaynes. The discussion re Humonculous Falacy is interesting. I think I grasp the gist, though a few points seemed to stray from the theme. A few thoughts occurred to me though, and I'll share them in a less formal structure.

First, In Thinking Without Words, Bermudez provides a structure for describing, though not proving, a process of thinking in animalia, four different species with similar results, though NOT 100% consistent results. If I recall correctly, an anomalous decision, (reasoning), with no discernible reason/logic chain. Put very simply, animals can solve problems in ways which it is impossible for us to establish a logic chain. AND, they don't all solve them the same way every time. Point being, 'reasoning' takes place. A structure exists. Without words, i.e. sans metaphor.

We can assume as fact (I will), that animalia, especially mammalia, can store and retrieve memories. Sense memories, let's 'assume' the main five senses. Animal memories play a role in their 'reasoning' or problem solving (they may be indistinguishable). Yet, if we buy Jaynes's theories, we also agree that the animal has no metaphorical mind-space due to its utter lack of lingual syntax or metaphorical 'lingo'.

Is it possible therefore, if, for instance, we teach apes to speak (in sign language), and we 'gift' them metaphorical lingo, that they subsequently develop a mind space, where none was before? (especially true for apes, but other mammals have primitive or different allegories for human bicamerality - maybe)

So what?

The point is, your blog entry requires too complex a construct to be reasonable. I.e., it just can't be that complicated. I agree on the dual consciousness piece, no brainer, except you ignore a couple factors which intrude with unpredictably unknown complexity.

First, let's assume we have two 'separate' brains or minds, (we do not). Each brain-side includes the 3D metaphorical sense capability. We must also assume that both sides have 'storage' or memory sensation. A place to store memories, even if they cannot be internally 'viewed' as such. Introspecting such memories is not necessary for them to be useful (see the first book). All I need in order to introspect, is to pass a memory stream across the 'other' visual cortex with a connected feedback loop, which we know exists. Like, having a video camera set up to a TV screen, but the camera cannot see the screen. The camera cannot be turned around to see itself.

But we have to camera-screen systems. Camera A can look at the screen of camera B (literally - left brain literally receiving feedback from the right brain visual cortex). Camera B can view the screen of camera A.

By including a high speed integrated feedback process between the two, and gifting it a metaphorical construct (English for instance) we find we've built a communications network that functions faster, as-fast, or fast enough to 'blur' the sense differences between the two brain sides. We've amalgamated the senses into an 'I', for free, with no complex reasoning at all. Other than some sort of efficacy inherent in syntax, which as far as we know, other animals do not have. I think rabbits maybe include some of the functionality I'm referring to, primates certainly do.

Moving on...

This, I think, removes the need for the little man. However, your assumption about introspecting ourselves 'behind the eyes' is not complete. Out of body experiences demonstrate (as do dreams) that the consciousness of the self can occur from outside the body, thus revealing the little man (in mind). But the reality is, this 'alternate' positioning can be accomplished without introspection. Jaynes explains, eloquently, (I think it's even on one of the audio lectures?), that although there are good reasons for us to sense ourselves behind our eyes (the vastly more intense visual stimulus), it is not 'required' that we perceive it so.

Would blind people sense their consciousness 'between their ears'? Yeah, probably. But why would they construct sense memories on a screen 'behind their eyes'? Why couldn't they actually perceive their movements from 'outside' their body? Perhaps like a 3rd person POV in a video game?

There is a reason. It's culture. We're 'taught' to exist behind our eyes. The metaphors we receive from the culture explain all aspects of our consciousness to us. And we don't know any better than to receive and believe them. (No other explanation is consistent with consciousness arriving after language)

This further explains hallucinatory sensation. Our sensation of an 'inner' voice, in someone else's voice, from outside our body, is a very simple displacement of an analog 1/2 brain self-perception. We 'hear' Aunt Martha as if she's standing next to us, 'because' one side's inner voice memory is playing across the other side's 'aural cortex' if you will.

In fact this kind of sensation would be entirely normal. Not 'kinda normal'. Normal period, or natural if you prefer. But the rest of us non-hallucinators have a slightly different metaphorical syntax which may simply be 'more efficient' at blurring the two sides seamlessly together, through no effort of our own.

In short, it doesn't matter how we sense our internal selves relevant to the outside, because we 'can' see them in whatever metaphorical way we've been told to. Our brains are immeasurably complex and are capable of sense models we cannot yet be aware of.


Long first post. I hope it's not a load a crap. Sorry for the lack of references. By the way, I recommend Black Swan, Taleb, for instruction on how to avoid bad inferences, and how to not ignore invisible evidence.


[Consciousness = introspection, reason = retrospection. No?]

Author:  Moderator [ Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy


It's nice to see you theorizing about these ideas.

In regards to your hypothesis, one thing to consider is there are quite a few people now living relatively normal lives with only one brain hemisphere (known as hemispherectomy patients). Sometimes a brain hemisphere is removed as a last resort procedure for severe epilepsy in early childhood. They even have their own support group called The Hemispherectomy Foundation. Also, some individuals, upon autopsy, were found to have lived with only one brain hemisphere.

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Thanks for the response Terry...very interesting. I agree, my assumption about introspecting "behind the eyes" is not nearly complete. Thanks for rounding it out!

Moderator: You bring up some fine points that amount to pretty big obstacles to the model I was proposing. However, regarding those people who were found to have lived with only one hemisphere, do we know much about how "normal" their lives were? Regarding those with hemispherectomies I have two questions:

1) how normal is "relatively normal"? If they can tie their shoes, prepare dinner, and respond fairly well to questions, but they cannot imagine themselves doing some hypothetical action two decades in the future, would this not circumvent part of the objection? After all, many people with rather severe hallucinations and/or schizophrenia also pass as "relatively normal," sometimes their entire lives.

2) could it not be that the two hemisphere were in fact required for the installation of the mental "software" requisite for "normal" consciousness and that some, but not all, of its functionality remained even after one of the hemispheres was removed? What I mean is that memories of a personal nature (memories of a self) could be stored while both hemispheres were in tact that would later pop up as recollections once one hemisphere was removed, even though conscious "recall" has been rendered impossible. If I may use a bad analogy, perhaps consciousness and recall are like capturing pictures on a digital camera with its lens cap off, and recollection is like the digital display of pictures already taken. Now, if we glue the lens cap on and disable the "capture" button (or remove a hemisphere in my admittedly poor analogy), no new pictures can be taken, but old ones can still be viewed. So I could ask someone with a hemispherectomy what they wore to their fifth birthday party, and they could answer correctly, but perhaps only by recollecting personal memories formed while consciousness was fully in tact instead of consciously recalling a vivid depiction of the birthday party in their metaphorical mind-space. I find this plausible because of my own experiences in dreams. Sometimes I'll have a dream where I will articulate some long, beautiful piece of rhetoric, even though I'm unconscious and dreaming, but this has only been made possible by the fact that earlier that day (while conscious) I composed the backbone of that piece of rhetoric. I was simply recollecting a previously stored "script" which my unconscious mind is reading off in the dream, as opposed to composing.

Anyway, my attempt at rescuing my musings from these good objections. Anybody have a good book recommendation on the mental abilities of hemispherectomy patients?

Author:  Moderator [ Mon Nov 07, 2011 5:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Check out Half a Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico by Antonio Battro and for historical perspectives A. L. Wigan's Duality of Mind and Anne Harrington's Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain.

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Terry: thanks again for your thoughts on the matter. I am learning much from them still. Really, my warmest thanks.
Moderator: I really appreciate the recommendations! I read Roland Puccetti's piece regarding Wigan and loved it. I also found your link on these forums for Wigans book for free online. Many thanks!

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

So I just finished Charles E. Marks "Commissurotomy Consciousness & Unity of Mind," as well as "The Dual Brain" by Zaidel and Benson. I am actually quite encouraged regarding my musings about double-mindedness and the homunculus fallacy.

As a preliminary note, it should be pointed out that the use of 'consciousness' in much of the split-brain research is NOT the same as Jaynes' term. These studies did not come even remotely close to testing the abilities of these patients regarding Jaynesian consciousness. Frank Benson, for example, writes that "while suffering significant residual defects, the subjects of hemispherectomy are able to react in a human manner." Well, so is bicameral man! Sperry writes that "we found that the right hemisphere can readily recognize and identify, with appropriate emotional reactions and social evaluations, pictures of the subject's self." Well so can a chimpanzee! If memory serves, Jaynes even addresses this measure of self-consciousness as being quite misleading. Zaidel (who I actually took a class with at UCLA oddly enough) gets a little closer to Jaynes' use: "for a fully conscious human, this degree of cognitive complexity includes an ability to use abstract reasoning, an internal model of the self and of the environment, a sense of past and future, and the usual range of affective responses including the capacity for modulating the cognitive system itself. Since all these qualities are continuous (i.e., admit of degrees), this concept of consciousness also admits of degrees and applies to a greater extent to some humans than others, more to humans that to monkeys, and more to monkeys than to dogs." Again, this is still NOT consciousness as described by Jaynes.

Paul Crandall writes that "the acute disconnection syndrome is one of the most dramatic syndromes found in neurology." Although complex motor tasks requiring both hands remain extremely difficult, "automatic early motor patterns such as tying shoelaces or neckties are completely unchanged." This backs up my digital camera metaphor. Crandall writes that these patients have an inability to keep track of more than three patterns perceived sequentially by touch and that "they give up easily in tasks that require prolonged concentration."

These symptoms do not always abate after the acute disconnection syndrome dies down either. Bogen writes that "split-brain patients soon accept the idea that they have capacities of which they are not conscious, such as left-hand retrieval of objects not nameable. They may quickly rationalize such acts, sometimes in a transparently erroneous way. But even many years after operation, the patients will occasionally be quite surprised when some well-coordinated or obviously well-informed act has just been carried out by the left hand."

Warren D. TenHouten writes the following: "Bogen and Bogen contend that creative thinking depends on hemispheric interaction made possible by the cerebral commissures, and that cerebral commissurotomy would have the side effect of reducing the creative thought of an initially creative person." He continues..."There is a specific form of creativity that has been shown to be lacking in commissurotomized patients: It is the creative expression of significant symbols, fantasies, and feelings in the form of words. Such expression presumably requires both the right hemisphere's grasp of significant meaning, of symbols, and of the cognitive representation of (negative) emotions, and the left hemisphere's verbal capabilities. The pathological lack of this creative capacity is called 'alexithymia.' Hoppe, in psychiatric interviews with commissurotomized patients, found a quantitative as well as a qualitative paucity of dreams, fantasies, and symbolizations. Hoppe and Bogen scored 12 commissurotomized patients for Sifneo's measure of alexithymia and found them to be highly alexithymic. The patients also experienced a lack of investment in subjective interpersonal relationships and a reduced capacity to engage in produce work."

So alien hand syndrome, alexithymia and lack of creative ability, paucity of dreams, fantasies and symbolizations...the list goes on. Is it not reasonable to ask whether some of these people are lacking consciousness in Jaynes' sense? Marks' book was very well written and I learned a lot form it, but he does not conclude one way or another. I take encouragement that he states at the end that: "I do not think that there are any logical grounds for rejecting a two-minds account of split-brain patients."

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Reading through some Gazzaniga....found exactly what I was looking for in his paper "cerebral specialization and interhemispheric communication", a free version of which can be found here:
http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content ... 3.abstract

"In these new tests, an interesting picture emerges: commissurotomy affects free recall mechanisms but recognition memory remains largely unchanged (Phelps et al., 1991)"

Later, he writes that "There are many reports in the literature of patients who have virtually no episodic memory but do have intact semantic memory (Tulving et al., 1988)."

One of the hallmark's of Jaynesian consciousness is recall, as opposed to recognition. The "posterior callosal-sectioned patients have a free recall deficit; patients with their anterior callosum sectioned behave normally." Sever especially the posterior section of the collosum and you get massive problems with recall...that is, with Jaynesian consciousness! This greatly encourages me because my theory that a courtship between the two hemispheres is required for introspection/recall would predict that recall would be dramatically affected and recognition left in tact for callosotomy patients.

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Hi all, just wanted to post a quick update on this topic and again thank everyone for their comments. After combing the literature for some time I began to gain enough confidence in the general approach I took on this topic to even consider writing a book about it. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I just discovered that someone has beat me to it: "The Crucible of Consciousness" by Zoltan Torey. I would make some minor adjustments (he misinterprets Libet as most do, including Libet), but overall, this was essentially the book that I wanted to write. He does not explicitly mention Jaynes, but there is lots of relevant stuff in there...talk of how "humans are disposed to seek comfort and to redress a lost intrapsychic equilibrium" and so forth.

Regarding my blog post, there seems to be one difference with Torey:

Torey quotes Minksy's (1985) formula for "creating a self-conscious organism" as follows:
"Divide the brain into two parts, A and B. Connect the A-brain's inputs and outputs to the real world so that it can sense what happens out there, but don't connect the B-brain to the outer world at all. Instead, connect it so that the A-brain is the B-brain's world."

Torey, however, argues that "Minsky's formula is a useful lead, except for a vital flaw in the last sentence. This flaw could be eliminated if the terms A and B were exchanged so that the sentence would read: 'Instead, connect it so that the B-brain too is part of the A-brain's world.' This is because the A-brain is the sole seat of awareness, the only possible locus of experience."

My blog post seems to investigate the possibility that the B-brain too can be a seat of experience, as Minsky's model implies, a move that Torey says "entails the inadvertent reconstitution of the very problem he set out to solve." I'm not sure, but I assume he is referring to the Homunculus Fallacy here? If so, I'm not sure why "one locus of experience" somehow averts this problem, while positing a second locus commits it.

William James tells us that there are two ways of knowing things: immediately/intuitively and conceptually. I happen to believe, with Nietzsche, that our concepts are born of our intuitions; our thoughts born of our feelings. What I wanted to explore was the curious fact that we can intuitively know our conceptual systems (after building them and knowing them conceptually of course) and likewise, we can conceptually know our intuitions (after feeling them "immediately", of course). This suggested to me the possibility of 2 seats of experience, allowing us not only to conceptualize and intuit, but upon further iteration of this back-and-forth process, to then "feel" our thoughts and think our feelings. For instance, after learning the corpus of Scholastic Philosophy, you could try to render this conceptual system intuitively via painting or a musical composition.

Any thoughts? (or feelings?...or conceptualized intuitions?..or intuitively rendered conceptualizations?) :lol:

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Another update on this theme of both hemispheres being required for meta-thought/robust conscious awareness:

I just read Norman Doidge's "The Brain That Changes Itself," a fantastic book on neuroplasticity. He talks about a patient (Michelle) that was born without her left hemisphere and describes in detail how her mind works, every single detail of which backs up my hypothesis. It seems that without one hemisphere one is alexithymic and has an incredibly hard time with most kinds of abstraction, as well as composing narratives (though they can recall narratives told to them or recall those that were "laid down" before they lost a hemisphere). Every account I have read about patients without a hemisphere tells the same story: people want to be sensitive and politically correct so these patients are described as living "almost normal" lives, when in fact this is hardly the case...their lives are made more normal by the extremely attentive support they receive, without which they would be utterly crippled. (The relevant page numbers in Doidge are between p275 and p283.)

-"she [Michelle] has trouble understanding certain forms of abstract thought." This turns out to basically be ALL types of abstract thought!
-"But she can find it difficult to understand a story illustrating an underlying moral, theme, or main point that is not explicitly spelled out, because that involves abstraction."

-"if Michelle has a second hemisphere, it is her mother." Michelle's mother answers most of Doidge's questions before Michelle does, with Michelle simply chiming in "yeah, thats right." Thus, we don't even know how much of Michelle's "narrative" was created by her mother and simply memorized. Plenty of instances abound where Michelle explains herself and then qualifies that this explanation came from her mother.

-Michelle yells and sings nonsense words and phrases whenever she feels like saying something, otherwise she cannot think or speak...its like Tourrette's syndrome: "ACTING BEES!!" or "TOOPERS IN YOUR POOPERS." She gets those vocalizations out and then can begin to speak clearly, if very simply.

-(Michelle) "My right side," she says, "cannot do some of the things that other people's right side can do. I can make simple decisions, but not decisions that require a lot of subjective thinking."

-She is in her twenties now but shes never had a crush on anyone. She's never really been interested and has no sexual dreams, though it is unclear whether she dreams much at all. Surely developing psychosexually enough to have a crush or be attracted to either gender is a prerequisite for a "relatively normal life"!

Conclusion: though Michelle is a truly remarkable case of neuroplasticity and the recovery of LH functions via her RH, she hardly lives a "normal life," and without her mother, a fantastic neurologist, and enormous efforts by special ed teachers, she would be completely mentally handicapped. Can anyone find me a book or paper in which a single-hemisphere patient actually did live a "relatively normal" life?

Author:  Moderator [ Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

I posted this awhile back, but there are lots of resources here: The Hemispherectomy Foundation

Including this detailed presentation on children after hemispherectomy:

What Can You Do With Half A Brain?

The outcomes are amazing, considering the loss of an entire hemisphere.

You might also look at articles such as this one:

Pediatric functional hemispherectomy: outcome in 92 patients

Author:  ignosympathnoramus [ Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: JJ and the Homunculus Fallacy

Moderator: Thanks again for the links. I have studied the material and still find no evidence contradicting my speculations. To be honest, I am rather surprised to be meeting with so much resistance in this forum of all places, given that my speculations are entirely in-line with Jaynes.' Let me then emphasize again that I am not meaning to be insensitive or cruel to people with only one hemisphere, or to label them as "subhuman" or anything like that, I am just trying to accurately describe their mentality because it is the most direct test of my hypothesis. Do my remarks come off as insensitive and inflammatory? Could someone help by perhaps explaining their reticence? Because as far as I can see, Jaynes is in complete agreement with my assessment of this patient population. Check out pages 142-143 of the JJ Collection. Regarding hemispheric interaction, Jaynes states that:

"I've begun thinking recently, that the analog 'I' is in the left hemisphere, and this field of consciousness is a bit more in the right hemisphere--in the spatial hemisphere--and our dialog with the self is going back and forth as we constantly recreate the ideas of our selves that we turn into the self-efficacy that allows us to do one thing or another."

Therefore, remove one hemisphere, and this hemispheric interaction cannot take place and the person loses Jaynesian consciousness to some extent. In the same part of the book Jaynes continues by discussing single-hemisphere patients: "They are an interesting and rather odd group of people. At first they seem relatively normal. But if you were to ask them, for example, 'How do you feel?' they might say 'With my hands.' they will not be able to understand the metaphor, the whole concept of it. All of their language is what we might call 'self-centered' in another kind of way. It is all 'what I am going to do now,' and so on. they are not interested in other people. They seem to have lost that and become very concrete. So I just put this idea of hemisphere interaction out there as a possibility for this complicated idea of the self that seems so ephemeral."

My idea differs only in that either hemisphere can act as the "field" while the other plays the analog "I." But both of our theories would predict that the removal of a single hemisphere would devastate conscious awareness, episodic recall, the ability to create and understand complex metaphors, and the ability to introspect, imagine, and abstract. This is precisely what I have found in the literature without exception. However, show me a single-hemisphere-equipped poet and I'll repent very quickly.

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