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the homunculus

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Fri Apr 9 19:03:29 EST 1999

The homunculus is the little man (green?) who sits in the middle of the
head, watching a TV set, and punching buttons. We are too sophisticated to
believe in such a little man, instead we have the soul (mind, intellect,
self, that which stands behind the brain, that which is other). The soul
(mind) selects from the data proffered by the brain, manipulates the data,
reaches a decision, and forwards the result to the brain for execution.

Do we really need such an entity?

It seems that many, who profess materialism but are actually dualists, need
one. They need something or someone to do the "thinking". The notion of a
brain composed of neurons, each doing its own little thing, being a
structure that can remember, associate, think, and decide is unsettling.

All those who ask, "Can the machine think?" are in need of a soul (mind) to
be associated with the machine.

John Searle says that a formal system will never give rise to a soul (mind).
He apparently thinks a soul (mind) will only show up in an organism carbon
based and driven by a DNA molecule.

All those who claim that emotion is necessary for an advance in AI are
invoking an homunculus.

All those who say we can never explain a brain by itself, we may only
understand it embedded in a culture are also invoking homunculi.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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