Are there agentic structures beneath the self?
In yesterday's 📝 Weird Fishes, I quoted the article 📰 The Government Within:
An integrated self, if it is anything, is a construction, an achievement, an emergent fact out of a pre-existing disorder, and one needs to understand this process in order to avoid or correct the pathologies that the process is prone to. *
Three salient examples of inner human Multiplicity:
Simler's article has this simple diagram of a brain topology, where we see an Addiction as a nexus that's almost but not quite an independent living agent inside the Person.
I wonder where Language would show up on such a diagram. For a monolingual person, the "mother tongue" seems like it would be almost inextricably entangled in the upper level near "the self." Simler writes about single words (like "art"), saying
[...] a 'god' or 'spirit' in your brain has a lot more power than any word, because it's alive in there. It's a fully animated concept, with agency of its own. As it happens, words aren't completely dead and lifeless; they're just like little fledgling gods. They can pop to mind unbidden, shift in meaning, and become more or less salient. But they have nowhere near as much intelligence or independent agency as a hallucinated voice. *
But a mother tongue is larger than a word. Indeed the hallucinated voices would typically be "subservient" to that language, in a sense. When Simler compares the Jaynesian gods with "slightly rogue agents" like addictions, the gods are more agentic because they can use language directly. This seems to suggest that language would be even further up the hierarchy than the self and the gods.
The difference is that, in a typical modern brain, the rogue network exists at a much lower level, whereas the gods in a bicameral brain exist at (more or less) the same level as the self and, crucially, can call upon the language and reasoning faculties directly. *
I know someone who grew up with two languages, Latvian and Russian, and who describes themselves as feeling somewhat split between the two. Each language is associated with one parent: there's a mother tongue and a father tongue, two different cultures, two parts of her self.
Thinking about inner multiplicity like this, it seems natural to also think about the structures associated with Projects, interests, and vocations. I am a programmer but also a woodworker. These have their own languages, values, worldviews. They aren't just "roles" in a social sense. They are structurally similar to Addictions, gods, or selves.
My programmer part is an evolution of my general computer-using part. It's quite a core part for me because it flourished and peaked in my adolescence. In some ways it's stuck in adolescence, a kind of "exile" in IFS terms, perpetually 16 years old, wearing a Linux t-shirt and staying up past its bedtime.
My woodworker part is a form of ancestor worship. It connects to my paternal lineage. In the Jaynesian way of being, it would be associated with a hallucinated ghost of my grandfather. My inner woodworker originates back in some fragmentary memories of tinkering in his basement, but as a living agent now it was born just a couple of years ago.
In Kaj Sotala's article 📰 Building Up to an Internal Family Systems Model, he writes:
I’ve frequently been very dysfunctional, and have always found very intuitive the notion of the mind being split into parts. Yet I mostly still don’t seem to experience my subagents anywhere near as person-like as some others clearly do. *
I would agree with this, but as I'm writing this I'm starting to see differently what it means for a part of me to be Person-like, and to see that inner multiplicity is nothing strange or unusual. It's like the water I swim in.
Or rather, if I'm an assemblage of weird fishes, what is the water?
Fernando Pessoa was such an assemblage. One of his subagentic heteronyms, Bernando Soares, wrote a diary, edited by another subagent and published as 📙 The Book of Disquiet. One entry in the diary says:
We never know self-realization. We are two abysses – a well staring at the sky. *