5/23: Final Virtual Class Discussion

Read this short text from The Principia Cybernetica website:

The Homunculus problem

“Cartesian materialism is an attempt to keep the mechanistic metaphysics of Descartes while getting rid of the idea on an immaterial soul (dualism). In this philosophy, the mind is seen as a (material) component of the body (e.g. the brain or some component of it) that interacts with the world via the senses and muscles. The philosopher Daniel Dennett has proposed the term “Cartesian theater” to summarize the picture that results when this idea is combined with the reflection-correspondence perspective: the mind somehow sits in a theater where the incoming perceptions are projected as images onto a screen; it looks at them, interprets them, and decides what to do; it sends its decisions as commands to the muscles for execution. In a more modern metaphor, we would describe the situation as if the mind acts as a control center for the body, the way an air traffic controller keeps track of the incoming planes on a radar screen, analyzing the situation, and issuing directions to the pilots. While this picture may seem more satisfying to a scientifically trained mind than Descartes’ ghostly soul, it merely shifts the difficulty.

The fundamental problem with the mind as control center is that it is equivalent to a homunculus (diminutive of the Latin “homo” = human being): a little person watching the theater inside our brain, and reasoning like an intelligent being in order to deal with the situation it observes. However, the point of the exercise was precisely to explain how a person reasons! We have explained the mind simply by postulating another, “smaller” mind (homunculus) within the mind.

Such reasoning leads to an infinite regress. Indeed, to explain how the homunculus functions we must assume that it has a mind, which itself implies another homunculus inside it, which must contain yet another homunculus, and so on. It is as if we are opening a series of Russian dolls the one nested into the other one, without ever coming to the last one. Another way to illustrate the circularity of such reasoning would be to consider a recipe for making cake where one of the ingredients is cake: how can you ever prepare such a cake if you don’t already know how to do it? To evade this paradox, we need to make a radical break with the way of thinking that produced it.”

Watch this clip:

Now do this:

Répondez s’il vous plaît.

Watch the video.

Read the text again, perhaps.

Post a comment.

Wait a while.

Post a reply to a classmate’s comment.

Wait a while longer.

Post a reply to a different classmate’s comment. [This should all be completed by midnight, Thursday, May 25, 2017].

Send me a pdf of your final paper or a link to your project with your write up attached as a pdf. [This should be sent by 6:00 PM, Tuesday, May 23, 2017].

Voila!

You’ve completed the course.

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47 comments

  1. According to the Principia Cybernetica Web definition of Dualism:

    “The assumptions of dualism are simple. Outside, we are surrounded by material reality. This
    consists of hard, indivisible particles or pieces of matter, which obey the deterministic,
    mechanical laws of nature. Such determinism leaves no place for free will, intention or agency:
    since all material events are already fully determined by the laws of nature, there is no
    freedom to intervene or change the course of events. The atomic structure of matter leaves no
    place for thoughts, feelings, consciousness, purpose, or other mental phenomena. Therefore,
    we need to assume that there exists another reality inside: the mind, which reflects about
    external reality as perceived through the senses.”

    Why must the mind be analogous to this material world? is it fair to say that – like a discussion of God – the mind is purely metaphysical, and that our human vocabulary and, ironically, understanding is not capable of justly defining the mind?

    1. The feeling for human to mechanically categorize things come from the evolution of human nature. Having this pre-set feeling or reality leave little imagination to the individual. We choose to place this image of having tiny people controlling our actions, because it is easier for people to ry and understand how the mind works. We will never fully understand how the mind works but if we can crete something like the film “Inside Out’ then it ives us peace of mind that we actually have no idea how our own mind works.

    2. To respond to your question Colin, I do believe that it is hard for our human vocabulary and understanding to justly define the mind. I think that our society is structured in such a way that only allows us to express things in a way that is “normal”, and often times there aren’t enough words or phrases that can truly express what the mind is experiencing. In the film Inside Out, we see that on the outside people can see Riley’s emotions and what she is feeling, because it’s the norm for someone to cry when they are sad, scream when they are mad, or laugh and smile when they are happy. However, that’s all the Riley knows how to do, so she becomes confused when the core feelings in her mind start to express themselves in a way that Riley doesn’t know how to show to others. With maturity (as seen in the film), Riley is able to lead a more emotionally complex life, however she still doesn’t always succeed in being able to truly express what her mind is experiencing, and I think that’s the norm for many people within our society, who just don’t have the words to express what they are feeling.

    3. I agree that the mind is difficult to define with current understanding. But hasn’t modern science already shown the equivalence of matter and energy (e = mc2)? So they are just different aspects of the same thing. We use that knowledge to build supercolliders and, unfortunately, atomic bombs. It seems perfectly reasonable that the mind could be a “material” evolutionary product of the brain, built from information in DNA (see my blog). But there could also be an energy (mind) and matter (brain) interaction that is yet to be discovered. Blackmore claims in “Consciousness” that there is no known way for energy and matter to interact. That is not true. How does the energy (radio waves) interact with your cell phone (matter)? I think it is too early to say with certainty what the mind is.

    4. I think that it is definitely difficult for our human vocabulary to define our minds. I think though that we are searching for a definition that does not exist. Instead of purely accepting the scientific explanation for things that is very cut and dry, we resort to bringing in aspects such as religion and God. I think that we complicate defining things by using these outlets of metaphysical thought.

  2. To me, it makes perfect sense to consider the brain as the physical control center because it is what allows us to even materialize these thought processes into labels such as “sense” and “duality”. As mentioned in the linked article, “Outside, we are surrounded by material reality. This consists of hard, indivisible particles or pieces of matter, which obey the deterministic, mechanical laws of nature. Such determinism leaves no place for free will, intention or agency: since all material events are already fully determined by the laws of nature, there is no freedom to intervene or change the course of events.” But the inside duality that is perceived by the five sense explains the immaterial reality. This leads me to wonder if a single experience can be experienced the exact same way by two or more different people?

    1. Arman, I would argue that while certain experiences/situations can be felt similarly by multiple people, they cannot be truly identical experiences, as everyone’s lifescript(s) are vastly different from even their closest sibling or friend. No two experiences are exactly the same, so I would also assume that no two people could experience a material event in the same way.

      I am curious, how would we then regard immaterial, yet potentially impactful facets of human experience, such as faith/religion/spirituality/the supernatural, for example? Where would these examples fit into our binary of metaphysics, [which Colin presented] and reality?

      1. To add to your point Savannah, the film Inside Out can be a perfect representation of how no two people are the same, because as we see throughout the film, as well as the clip that was shared on this forum, Riley along with all her feelings (Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness) experience all of the same scenarios, yet all have completely different ways of interpreting them and coping with them. Because of how different all of Riley’s feelings are, they run into some trouble in terms of how to work together and come to some sort of consensus for Riley’s best interest, which in the same way happens to people when they experience the same scenario, but have different approaches and ways to cope with them. I do think that people can experience the same thing, it’s their approach to the scenario that will vary from person to person.

    2. I like your question at the end. I do feel like that is a question no one can really answer. People may have a similar reaction to something and have an experience when described sounds he same, but if we look inside each and everyones mind after an event, everyone has a different thought process and may eventually lead to a similar “experience”. To me, not once experience can ever be the same.

    3. Arman, I do believe that a single experience can be experienced the same way by another person. Take for instance your example in class for your final project about Coachella. I to attended this year and was getting the chills watching the clips/comics that you put together. I had very similar if not identical reactions to what you were trying to portray through your dialogue bubbles. Although we may not have literally experienced the same experience, we did indeed partake in similar activities while at the event. The complication for me in my belief however is that my senses while watching your presentation re-visited feelings about the event but I did not physically have the same experience that you had.

      1. I’d like to bring up the topic of the uncanny to explain this. I noticed that you, Chris, linked Arman’s final project into this discussion regarding similar feelings to certain experiences. While you both experienced similar events, I can determine that you experienced different feelings towards it. However, when you came back from Coachella, according to Arman’s final presentation and our own analysis of your feelings, felt as though the festival were still a lingering factor in your everyday life and began to re-experience the feeling outside the event. I believe that experiencing the metaphysics of the ideologies of the uncanny is an attempt to be connected with our counterparts.

    4. This is a really interesting question! Since our minds are run by other little minds, I don’t think it would be possible to experience something the same exact way someone else is. Two people can be sitting in a room, sitting the exact same way, watching the exact same movie but both individuals would process the movie differently and feel certain ways during specific scenes differently. Because we all have separate past experiences, what we do now is effected by what has happened to us in the past. While people may agree that they’ve have similar experiences, it’s almost impossible to have the exact same experience. Our minds are unique.

    5. This is a really interesting point, Arman. I personally don’t feel that two people can experience anything exactly the same. Our experiences are remembered based on our knowledge and our opinions, and those vary from person to person depending on preferences and upbringing. I agree with you that the brain as a physical control center makes perfect sense, however I do think each person’s control center is perhaps more custom than an actual, streamlined “control center” as we imagine it.

  3. In response to Arman’s question, I too agree with Savannah that our experiences/ situations that we are placed in may be similar, but due to our identities each experience is colored differently and interpreted in a variety of ways. This can be understood through the extra reading of dualism which notes that the mind is “another reality.” “…if [the] mind can affect matter beyond what matter would already do on its own, then it must contravene the deterministic laws of mechanics, implying that these otherwise very reliable laws cannot be.” Thinking about the mind in this way, in how it is separate from the mechanical laws of our external world then I would see how our experiences vary vastly from person to person.

    Looking at the problem of the mind as the control center, and the infinite regression that is presented as we go into the metaphor of the homunculus who controls us on the inside. I was curious about the how the mind is able to act outside the laws of physics. How does this alternate reality control the material matter that is our body? I think most of us sometimes think in this dualistic way of mind and body as separate, but are they so disconnected from one another?

    1. In response to Abegail, I think it is not just to view the material world as a finite place. Just as we learned during the semester about the information dyad, there is concrete facts or information, and then there is an interpretation of that information. This interpretation is what separates humans from animals, and it is what makes each individual unique. I think it is thus fair to say that our interpretations of the material world are the building blocks for the “mind”. The brain itself is comparable to inside out if we view the little people as analogous to neurons, but the choice or free will must be a combination of all past experiences considered within a mental algorithm, which is computed by the mental hardware that is the brain. In regard to the mind working beyond the laws of physics, I can’t really say whether I believe that to be true.

    2. I, too, had a similar question, Abegail. I believe that the overarching argument brings the mind-body problem into discussion. Descartes encouraged the idea that the mind and body is different in nature. One of his key points that he discusses is that our mind can exist out of our body yet our body is unable to think. Judging from Descartes proclamations, I believe that the mind is able to connect with our body yet our body doesn’t have that connection with the mind. Inside Out embodies this because we see that her body is being controlled by her mind yet, at the same time, the body is controlling the mind but it is not explicit and she is unable to control and explain her emotions. So, in essence, the binaries of mind and body is difficult to explain yet we can attempt to do so by analyzing scholars’ interpretations.

  4. I love the idea that our mind has a control center with tiny people living in our brain. I do however agree with the thought discussed within the Homunculus problem, that this should not be an explanation for the reasoning behind the actions we make. In the movie “Inside Out” we get a great example of this homunculus problem. I think the director did an amazing job representing our major emotions that run inside our mind on a constant basis. These emotions seem to be the foundation for how we process and react to things.

    My questions would be, if not using “Inside Out’ as an example for the interior of our brain, how would one choose to visually represent this idea in a way a large audience can understand?

    1. Addison, I wonder the same thing. The most logical representation of how the interior of our brain works in my opinion would come from observing a young child when they are told to do something. This sounds strange but when I think of our actions being responses to situations or feelings they can be represented by young children. For instance when a young child is learning to play with others for example at first they seem to react to one another. Similarly, when introducing a new toy for the first time to a child and watching them try to play with it is their actions responding to whatever it is they perceive to be the proper reaction to the toy.

      Going off of this idea, does anyone else thing this is plausible?

      1. To respond to both of you, Chris and Addison, I agree that Inside Out depicts the Homunculus Problem with virtual perfection. I think a better representation would be a person witnessing/interacting with some aspect of their environment, such as a child with a toy, or an adult with a new electronic device, compared to a millennial using the new iPhone. The depiction should have the individuals initially see/feel the object, observe it, and then time pauses figuratively because the brain processes thoughts and memories so fast, and the depiction would have each individual run through past memories that relate to this observation of the object. These past experiences would then determine how they would react to the object after time resume; whether they have some insight as to how to operate it, where some features might be located, what the intended purpose of the object might be. The millennial will obviously pick up the iPhone and begin to use it with ease, and seemingly without any thought, but the child and the elderly person will struggle with their objects because they have minimal past memories using this particular object. They will then need to take more time up upload data into their brain by testing the object in various ways.

        The brain is essentially just a computer with aspects of randomness as not all memories will be recalled. There is no programming, because the mind has free will, whereas the computer is coded to react to certain environmental encounters. But the mind is a database and computer reacting to new experiences with past experiences in mind.

      2. I cant imagine another film managing to portray this better. Even in ancient times, the whole idea as that peoples mental and physical health is based on the 4 humors which correspond to 4 major natural compounds and so on. This is why some people will be describes as sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic in terms of their personality, which oddly correspond to the internal characters from Inside Out very well. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

  5. When reading the comments above, many ideas are brought up and it is very interesting to see everyone’s perspective. To discuss Cris’s question brought up about the idea of observing children to understand how the brain works is a cool way to approach it. When thinking about children and watching them interact with anything you are pretty much watching the “wheels in their brain turn” because they have no past experience with a new item to base their reaction on. What I would be curious about is if every new interaction produces a truly new response or if they are capable or relating it to something they have experienced before?

    Something I also thought about while watching the clip was if these little people control Riley’s brain then when it sort of goes haywire like it did in the clip wouldn’t she have no sort of brain function at all? I saw it as since everythings shutting down she should be experiencing a sort of brain damage. I realize the idea of little people in one’s brain has many flaws but just something to think on!

    1. To reply to Juliana’s question, about whether or not each new interaction produces a truly new response or if children are capable of relating their experience to a prior experience, I would argue that it must be a combination of both. When we are young, as illustrated in the movie Inside Out, each new memory is stored and held for safe keeping. For example, as we watch Riley grow up she encounters different things such as the scene where her dad tries to feed her broccoli as a kid and then she flings it away as disgust starts to form in her mind. Then, later in the movie, we see that this memory lives on and Riley acts disgusted when she sees broccoli on pizza when they move to San Francisco. So when thinking about little kids I think each new experience elicits a new reaction and the body will draw from these memories in order to better respond when/if the situation is to arise again.

    2. To respond to JUliana, I think your question is so interesting and I would like to know the same thing! I wonder what happens to the person’s behavior, when chaos is going on in their brain. DO they shut down or are they panicking at the same time as the “little people” in their brain are as shown in the movie. Riley was not panicking, but everyone in her brain was yet she seemed to remain calm/still. I wonder what happens in real life. I wonder if it could be like brain damage or the brain not functioning properly because there is such chaos going on in the brain like her different emotions/thoughts.

    3. I had the same thoughts as Julie when everything in Riley’s brain was shutting down. I think the shut downs indicated that she herself was shutting down, leading to depression. If things in her mind shut down, she wouldn’t be able to feel anything. When the emotions are panicking in her mind, I always think of that one Spongebob episode when he forgets his name and all the little Spongebobs are running around (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZQJhvs4amQ) and his brain breaks. Julie’s comment also makes me think about the other aspects of the brain. Of course, Inside Out only focuses on 5 emotions. Are there others in the brain that help us function? What about the parts of our brain that allow us to love? Shouldn’t love be a character as well?

      1. In response to Abigayle’s question, I definitely thought this same thing when I first watched this movie. How were these specific emotions decided upon when there are so many different feelings that result from different situations? I think love could be one as well as so many others. I think that the homunculus ides of the mind is flawed for this reason. Is there one tiny human in the mind at a control center who decides on all of these emotions of could it be split into many different individuals for each emotion? How would it work if you felt something like anxiety which is a mix of nervousness and fear, two emotions in one emotion?

  6. I was interested in the overall essence of the homunculus problem. Additionally, I appreciated how Inside Out, specifically this particular scene, captured homunculus. Through this example, we can visually see how the voices in our head have much control over how we act and how we think.
    I question if there is a way for us to be aware of our tiny voices in our head and be in control of it rather than it controlling us.

    1. I also agree that this is a problem and was also very interested in this idea. I think Inside Out captured the homunculus perfectly, and I wonder how complicated it would be for them to capture the homunculus problem since the voices of for example “Joy” would have its own characters and the cycle would just keep continuing, making it way too complicated. I’m not sure if there is a way to be aware of our tiny voices in our head unless that is the same as having consciousness. Sometimes when we make decisions we think rationally should I do this or that and I’m not sure if that’s the same as the tiny voices like homunculus? But if so, then I hear my own thoughts in my head and I guess you can control them by choosing to think about certain decisions or just shutting your brain off.

    2. Interesting question, Julia. I had been wondering the same thing when watching the clip. However, then that would be to ask if you could control the tiny voices in our head, what would be telling us to control them or how to control them? I guess thinking bout it collectively, there are people who have tried to reach that sort of alternate dimension or plane where they can control their mind and body… like Wim Hof, (aka the “iceman”) can control his body temperature with his mind. He is capable of being nearly naked in below freezing temperatures and feel perfectly comfortable.

      I don’t know how people get to that point of control or how they have been able to access those dimensions of their brain, but it proves that controlling the emotions or voices in your head is certainly possible.

  7. “Such reasoning leads to an infinite regress. Indeed, to explain how the homunculus functions we must assume that it has a mind, which itself implies another homunculus inside it, which must contain yet another homunculus, and so on.” This is very interesting and I agree that this is so complicated. It’s like a cycle that never stops by having a mind with in a mind that keeps going, since each Homunculus controls the next one/the one above it.

  8. This is a bit off-track, but in response to everyone’s dialogue regarding the Homunculus function, specifically in relation to the control these “tiny voices” have over our everyday experiences, I am curious as to how the director of “Inside Out”, say, if there were a sequel or an epilogue, would depict mental illness, implying a certain level of disruption of chemical/hormonal control(s)? Which of the five archetypal emotions depicted in “Inside Out” would be in charge, so to speak, as Joy is for Riley, in the instance of someone experiencing, say, bipolar depression or borderline personality disorder? Would there be an introduction of other emotions in this case?

    1. In response to what Savannah brought up, I had actually been thinking about something similar after watching the clip. I would definitely say that Riley was experiencing early stages of depression after she moved and that was what caused sadness to act out so sporadically. So, if mental illness were being depicted I definitely believe that the mind would be a cluster fuck from the sporadic actions made by all of the emotions. The chemical imbalance between serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline is what is believed to cause bipolar disorders. I do not believe that new emotions would be introduced, but rather, I believe that all of the emotions (including joy) would act out without knowing why they are acting out. Just as when Sadness told Joy “I don’t know what is wrong with me” or “I can’t help it”, they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from wanting to have control of the brain’s main control system. Eventually, all of the tubes that connect the brain to each of the separate islands (which I believe represent neurotransmitters) would also collapse causing most of the body to shut down.

      1. This is such an excellent point. The idea of the different island being neurotransmitters is very interesting. Another aspect to mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or depression is manic behavior. Riley shows some spurts of mania – her leaving, stealing from her mother’s purse, even when she grabbed the brown and played hockey to break the tension. That last action seems innocent enough, but would a neurotypical child really have it in them to play while in such a stressed environment? I don’t exactly know if this is answerable, but I certainly do see an imbalance between depression and mania in Riley, and I think that point about Sadness’ uncontrollable and inexplainable new behavior makes a lot of sense. Also the loss of core memories – often, depression makes it hard to remember the good times, or can cast a gray cloud over something that was once very positive.

  9. Looking at the mind as a sort of physical control center makes perfect sense to me. When looking at the way this center is personified in the clip from Inside Out, I think that pixar did a fine job at demonstrating how thoughts are processed and executed within this control center. Contrary to what was said in both of the articles about the dimensions of our brain leading into a Russian doll affect, I think the way pixar represented situation shows that as humans, we have various dimensions and corridors to our brain that could technically be controlled by little people inside. However, what separates us from them is that we are capable of feeling everything in a different manner depending on how the situation is processed, while the figments inside of our head are confined to the one-dimension that is them.

    Like in the film, Joy only feels joy, sadness is always sad, etc.,
    In nearly any event, we can process a single situation and have various emotions about what is happening while the figments in our head only see the situation in a way that fits the one-dimension that they are.

  10. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proposed the term “Cartesian theater” to describe the idea that there is a region in the brain corresponds to consciousness, observing and making decisions. This “region” is a part of the material brain. Dennett criticizes this idea, saying it just shifts the difficulty from a dualistic view to one equivalent to the mind as a “homunculus”, a little human watching the theater from inside our brain. He suggests that this just pushes the problem of mind to an infinite series of minds, since what is the homunculus mind, etc.?

    The problem with Dennett’s “homunculus” analogy is that modern biology has already destroyed a prior version of it. Medieval biologists believed there was a “homunculus”, a tiny human, inside sperm, waiting to grow inside the mother. This presented the same problem as Dennett proposes, since the “homunculus” would need a tiny “homunculus” inside its sperm and those sperm would need a “homunculus” and so on forever. The discovery of DNA supplied an alternative. The information to “build” a human is found in sperm (and eggs!), not a tiny human itself.

    Given that the information to build an entire human (including a brain) is present in DNA, one doesn’t need to propose a “homunculus” sitting in the Cartesian theater to explain consciousness. If DNA can code for the extreme complexity of the brain (which it does), why can’t it code for a material part of the brain that evolved into what we call consciousness?

  11. Using Inside Out clarifies Descartes’ philosophy and the idea that the control center is equivalent to a homunculus. It’s interesting to find that we are controlled by our minds, but something else controls our minds and so on. After watching this clip, I began to focus more on Joy and her role in Riley’s mind. Joy is responsible for keeping Riley happy, and she is constantly dictating the roles of the other emotions and tells them what they can and can’t do – especially Sadness. Of course, it’s a good thing in life to be happy, but it is almost essential to feel a variety of emotions in order to live life. If someone was happy their entire life, they would not know sadness or disgust and this completely defeats the purpose of the other senses being present. While some may see Sadness and the other emotions as the bad guys, I saw Joy as the antagonist. Her consistence in trying to make Rylie a happy girl drove Riley into a downward spiral of depression.

    Do you think Joy was actually helping Riley or hurting her by assuring that she was always happy?

    1. In response to Abigayle H.’s post, I completely agree with your point on seeing Joy as the antagonist of Inside Out rather than the other emotions. While it is clear that society tries to tell us that we should be “happy” or to maintain a positive outlook on life, people seem to forget that the other emotions are important to our health too. In the movie Joy took up a majority of Riley’s memories and at times forced herself into situations where other emotions tried to give Riley a reaction. I think the movie did a great job of showing audiences the importance of other emotions, particularly sadness which many people associate with negativity. In my opinion, I think that Sadness was the true protagonist of the story as she was the one who helped Riley stop from running away and helped bring the family closer together from the aftermath of Riley’s disappearance.

  12. “Matter follows the laws of mechanics, mind has a logic of its own that cannot be reduced to mechanical principles.” -Dualism

    I remember reading Descartes for Seminar and he also argued reasoning comes from the individual and outside sources can easily persuade our reasoning. The control center is a form of consciousness and gathers information and interprets the information to make a decision or create an idea. Our experiences grasp our reasoning and our reasoning is what makes us human. I am confused by the term logic and what it exactly implies. There are flaws to Descartes theory, but overall I think it somewhat captures the function of the mind. I am curious to understand how emotion plays a role in his theory. And is the mind, our control center, easily manipulated by the experiences we have with the world? It is both frightening and amazing how a single piece of matter, the brain, can create such a complex world.

  13. To speak to your point, Abigayle, I completely agree! I thought about Joy’s role in Riley’s experience transitioning into a new environment as her sense of home became more and more detached . I also wonder, in the very beginning scene of the film, we can see Joy being the first emotion present in Riley’s mind as an infant. https://youtu.be/c0eO6h1F5LU

    A few questions: 1) Is Joy’s initial presence the product of nature (something biological/chemical) or nurture (the love her parents exhibited for her since the day she was born?). 2) Is the fact that her parents have non-Joy “Lead” emotions in their homunculus structures, the product of their biology or life experience?

    I hope, if there were a sequel to “Inside Out”, it would integrate a more collaborative partnership between Joy and Sadness, because I believe, personally, that Joy’s constant interference left Riley a bit unprepared for change and led her to cope non-constructively (lashing out at her parents, etc.).

    Another obscure question: do we think there is a significance in that Riley’s parents have single-gendered homunculus structures while Riley’s is comprised of mixed genders?

    1. I would assume that this corresponds to how people tend to be more neutral in their youth but mature into their gender with puberty. Often people who are tomboyish or foppish or whatever tend to fill into the biological norms of their gender as they grow older. In addition to that, survival instincts tend to kick in that make fatherly versus motherly behaviors emerge. I have noticed that mothers, at their best, are nurturing, while at worst, are smothering. Fathers on their other hand, can teach self-reliance and toughness at best (while serving as protectors) or be absent/have anger problems at worst.

      That is to say, the internal homunculi are gendered because as people grow up, their once malleable internal machinery tends to set in a way that adapts to its role. Brain development itself is significantly influenced by what people learn. The development of a brain between age 20 and age 30 is especially critical, because it is setting itself up for the rest of life, so all skills learned in that time period are extremely important for practical purposes.

  14. This notion of the human mind as a “control” center has been thought provoking to me since I first watched “Inside Out”. I feel as though the homunculus is a generally good way to envision the mind, yet the Russian doll point is confusing. Is it possible that the theoretical homunculus could simply operate differently? A human is a complex creature, but a homunculus could be a condensed version of the reality.
    For example, Joy only serves the purpose of.. joy. Had she had a full operating mind, she wouldn’t have had to go through all she had to stop resenting sadness. These homunculus figures only have one perspective, so for that reason I don’t think the theory needs to be as complicated as the Russian doll thought.

  15. I had always had a homunculus view of my mind and had never realized the concept of how it is like Russian dolls. I now think that it is simply an avenue by which we can explain and imagine our minds in a tangible and understandable way because without it, it is confusing and almost impossible to understand.
    To me, using a homunculus approach to envision how our mind works, is what we deem humanistic. I think that if we imagine a tiny person in our head controlling our emotions and thoughts, we are simplifying an idea into something that is personal. We do this rather than believing a biological approach that takes the humanistic aspect out of why we feel the emotions we do and how we make decisions.
    Why do you think that we are constantly attempting to take the biological and randomness aspect out of the way our minds function and replace it with what we think is more “humane”? i.e. a tiny person at a control center in our minds

  16. In response to Eleni’s comment, I agree and consider how these emotional behaviors (joy,sadness, disgust, etc.) are the main components of the control center. This also supports how the development of mental illnesses are driven and formulated from an individuals emotion. Since Rileys control center is controlled by emotional behaviors, what factor does Reason play in relation to the emotional aspect of the brain? In other words, when is the brain functioning with reason rather than emotion? Or does it function simultaneously? It is understandable with a child, like Riley, how the control center would function primarily with emotion. But when an individual analyzes the state of our nature, or virtue and justice, the control center is functioning with reason. The emotional aspect is the primary function of the brain, but we cannot ignore the fact that the brain does function, or controls itself, when an individual tries to reason and understand challenging ideas based on the functions of society.

  17. In response to Juliana’s comment/question, about the brain shutting down, I would argue that it is clearly cemented from the emotional aspect of the brain. A core memory is an experience in which an individual, such as Riley, use to commemorate the joyful experience someone has had from their core memory. With Riley, when she talks to the class, the core memory transitions to a depressing/sad memory because Riley realizes her “new life” diminishes the core memory into a memory that somewhat no longer exists. Riley’s outburst of sadness shows the impact a core memory can have with an individual’s health and why the loss of controlling our core memories can lead to depression.
    This is why when we lose something very valuable to us, we create or seek a transitional object for what we lost to revive the past experience that the core memory gave us. For instance, if a child loses their father, they seek an object to remind themselves of him. This object essentially becomes within the core memory.
    I believe Riley’s core memories are representations of her life. Since her core memories are from a completely different environment, (Minnesota to San Fransisco), she can no longer connect with her core memories and therefore her core memories become forgotten.

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