EXTRASOMATORY SELF and Extended Phenotype



Any information about you (or any organism) that can be perceived by others and thereby represents you is important in communications — some things you cannot control other you can.  Most people want to advertise their uniqueness in combination with traits they feel might be attractive to others (to foster social bonding, even attract a potential reproductive partner who wants the genes and memes responsible for that trait in their offspring)  [note; controlling how we present ourselves to others often involves MASKS: see more about this HERE]


Here are some notes from a lecture I presented in 2001, updated in part








































November 26, 2001 – during yesterday’s sermon, I suddenly felt it obvious that one part of the brain can communicate with another by looping through the external world as a transient “corporealization of the psyche” (Franz Alexander) or “extrasomatory self” (Howard Bloom).  

As valuable as such artifacts may be to others (they are part of ourselves and they are –by our actions, conscious or not – accessible to others), they may have originated more humbly as a way of transmitting information in one part of the brain to another part even though not directly connected by neural pathways.


Might this be, in fact, an aspect of normal brain function that has, by means of the utility of this mode of self-expression,  reached such extraordinary cultural dimensions in “art.”   Something like this is what happens in dreams – Freud’s central insight, that dreams can inform one part of our minds with information that resides or is coordinated elsewhere – we gain conscious access to the usually occult subconscious – we can gain insight about the otherwise unknowable forces within us that guides our behavior.

















































































February 26, 2006 — do we extracorporealize in order to escape “the ignominy of flesh?” — surfing old NYTBRs: In his book on “The Power of Movies.” Colin McGinn, in his chapter “The Metaphysics of the Movie Image,” notes “that we feel ‘no alienation from a body like this, no division into me and it. It is the body as transformed into another type of material, an immaterial material. There is something wondrous and magical about it. . . . It is a body without the ignominy of flesh.’

     This is both good writing and good thinking. ‘Ignominy of flesh’ is borrowed from Yeats’s lyric meditation on mortality, ‘A Prayer for My Son’ – an ideal allusion, for McGinn has seized on the metaphysical punch that film, unlike any other medium, delivers. Just as Socrates and Descartes, in their different ways, argued for the ability of the human psyche to endure beyond death, film allows us to have the experience of the soul existing without needing a body to contain it. As McGinn writes, “Movies offer us a transformed reality in which the body is stripped of its material bonds and becomes united with our essential nature as centers of consciousness.’”

(from Wyatt Mason’s review of  ‘The Power of Movies,’ by Colin McGinn, in the NYTBR, January 22, 2006:6)













































































” . . . an animal artefact, like any other phenotypic product whose variation is influenced by a gene, can be regarded as a phenotypic tool by which that gene could potentially lever itself into the next generation.” (The Extended Phenotype – The Long Reach of the Gene  by Richard Dawkins OUP 1982/1999:199)


The extended phenotype, consists of : “All effects of a gene upon the world. As always, ‘effect’ of a gene is understood as meaning in comparison with its alleles. The conventional phenotype is a special case in which the effects are regarded as being confined to the individual body in which the gene sits. In practice it is convenient to limit ‘extended phenotype’ to cases where the effects influence the survival chances of the gene, positively or negatively.”


“ABOVE my desk is a postcard from a friend showing two caddis larvae in cases they themselves constructed from fragments of real gold, tiny pearls and precious stones. This bio- jewelry is easy enough to create. You simply extract a caddis larva from its usual gritty home, provide it with some expensive building materials, and sit back and wait. The caddis larva’s home, or case, is a classic example of what Richard Dawkins calls an “extended phenotype”–a product of an individual’s genes that exists outside its body. // In The Mating Mind, Geoffrey Miller suggests that most of the products of human culture–including the cave paintings in Font-de-Gaume, Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel–are extended phenotypes. In contrast to the caddis fly’s protective case, which has clear survival value and which evolved through natural selection, Miller’s view is that human artistic achievements have evolved through sexual selection.” (From Tim Burkhead’s review of The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller, Heinemann/Doubleday, £20/$27·50, ISBN 0434007412 in From New Scientist magazine, 13 May 2000)  The extended phenotype, consists of : “All effects of a gene upon the world. As always, ‘effect’ of a gene is understood as meaning in comparison with its alleles. The conventional phenotype is a special case in which the effects are regarded as being confined to the individual body in which the gene sits. In practice it is convenient to limit ‘extended phenotype’ to cases where the effects influence the survival chances of the gene, positively or negatively.”



CULTURE?  Man is the only animal who, in any considerable measure, bequeathed to his descendants the accumulated wisdom of past generations.  (Lotka, 1925) . . . . “Culture and biology are intimately related . . . the creation of culture is a biological imperative and its character is shaped by the needs and limitation of the organism.” (Beck 1961:19)






































Michael S. Gazzaniga. (in Nature’s Mind: The Biological Roots of Thinking, Emotions, Sexuality, Language, and Intelligence. 1992 and The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind. 1985) uses the example of a man with a split-brain who moves his head, writing out messages from one half of his brain half to the other with his nose, then apparently deciphers the letters being penned in mid air with his eyes.


An even more striking example of functions cut off from each other:  During WW-I , Corporal Schneider, suffered two wounds to back of the head, damaging the area where visual stimuli are interpreted.  Even though he passed a series of perceptual tests easily, something was still not quite right.  He was, in fact seriously handicapped in his perceptual capacities BUT he had learned to “compensate” for his disorder in a variety of elaborate ways. For example, . . . he was able to read almost any text that was given to him by means of a ‘series of minute head and hand movements–he “wrote” with his hand what his eyes saw. . . .  If prevented from moving his head or body, the patient would read nothing whatsoever’–all he saw were individual lines and tracks without any overall pattern or meaning. . . . “Strikingly, the patient was in no sense conscious of having modified his accustomed reading habits; in some unknown way, his injured brain had established a global compensatory strategy of which ‘he’ himself was ignorant.” (Anne Harrington. Reenchanted Science:147.) So here we have a human whose visual apparatus is capable of doing a good part of the process we call reading, but not all of it._ He can move data from a page into some temporary form awaiting decryption into speech._ However to finish the process of turning it to something he can speak aloud, he apparently needs to shuffle the raw_ material from one self, from one neural module, to another._Without the parietal_ lobes, he apparently can no longer do this internally._Somehow, without notification being given to his consciousness, “something in him manages to work out an alternative route._ That route is what Carl Sagan would havecalled ‘extracranial’–it involves a shift of the datastream outside the skull to the muscles, which in turn write the material again and transfer it to the destination from which recitations come._ The phenomenon in which one part of the brain jury-rigs a semaphore system to flag its messages to another has been seen in the days since._ One of Sperry or Gazzaniga’ssplit brain patients was presented with pictures only his right, non-speaking brain could see._ With the corpus callosum, the bridge between the right and left hemispheres, cut, there was no nice, neat, synaptic way of getting the information from the right brain to the speaker in the left brain so that the Aself@ could discuss it like an intelligent human._ So the patient’s right brain wrote the material using his nose, the left brain read the nasal communique, and all was fine–provided no one immobilized the poor fellow’s head.”  (Correspondence from Howard Bloom 1 Dec 2000).



Think your sense of self is located in your brain? Think again

Most of us instinctively think that our sense of self is located in our head – but experiments show that our brains aren’t working alone in creating our sense of self” Read 9 December 2020https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24833121-500-think-your-sense-of-self-is-located-in-your-brain-think-again/#ixzz70hb48InP