Models of mind and the double brain: Some historical and contemporary reflections
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Models of mind and the double brain:Some historical and contemporaryreflectionsAnne Harrington aa Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine , London, U.K.Published online: 16 Aug 2007.
To cite this article: Anne Harrington (1986) Models of mind and the double brain: Some historical andcontemporary reflections, Cognitive Neuropsychology, 3:4, 411-427, DOI: 10.1080/02643298608252029
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COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 1986 3 (4) 411-427
Models of Mind and the Double Brain: Some Historical and Contemporary Reflections
Anne Harrington Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, U. K .
An essay review of A New View of Insanity: The Duality of the Mind, & c., by A.L. Wigan, orginally published London, 1844. Reprint edition by J. E. Bogen and J. Simon, with a foreword by J. Bogen. Malibu, California: Joseph Simon Publisher, 1985, $30.
When Arthur Ladbroke Wigans magnum opus, The duality of the mind, was first issued in 1844, press notice was mixed. The phrenologists granted the authors essential proposition that the human brain consisted of two functionally distinct halves-with each hemisphere capable of serving as an independent organ of the mind-but they pointed out sharply that such an idea went back to the very foundation of phrenology and had no novelty whatsoever (Dr. Wigan, etc. 1845). Indeed, Wigans insistence upon the pioneering nature and epic-making importances of his achievement (tan- tamount, he said, to Harveys discovery of the circulation of the blood) would inspire one reviewer, the phrenologist John Elliotson, to produce what must stand in the medical literature as a minor masterpiece of invective:
The inordinated love of fame, like many weaknesses . . . serves a most useful purpose to defective or ill trained persons, like crutches and sticks to the lame. But the high human being will not require these miserable aids to enquiry and virtue, he will pursue truth for its own glorious sake. ...[ Men like Wigan] do things continually and shamelessly which astonish and disgust those who are good in spirit and in truth, and would cause Christ to exclaim again that in spirit be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorroh, & c-strong expressions, but not too strong for detestation of inconsistency and hypocrisy (Elliotson, 1847,226225).
In addition to challenging Wigans extravagant claims to originality, there was a general feeling among reviewers that the author of Duality of mind had-as the London physician, Sir Henry Holland (1852) would later put
Requests for reprints should be made to Anne Harrington, The Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 183 Euston Road, London NWl2BP, England. Preparation of this essay was supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust.
@ 1986 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Limited
41 2 HARRINGTON
it-pushed speculation beyond the closest inductions from such observa- tions. Elliotson spitefully pointed out (1847,233) that if to do two things at once, a person requires two brains, he ought to require several brains when he does several things at once, and a countryman walking the streets of London, using his stick, talking, hearing and staring, as he proceeds, could not dispense with fewer than five. The Journal of Psychological Medicine called the inquiry novel but cautioned that it was as yet, sub judice (New view of insanity, etc. 1848, 30). Even Wigans great friend and admirer, Forbes Winslow, had to concede that occasionally Wigan allowed his originality to overstep the bounds of prudence so that at times he appeared as the advocate of a paradox (Winslow, 1849,498).
Yet Winslow was also deeply concerned that the fair sprinkling of fallacies in Duality ofmindshould not be allowed to obscure the beauties, the great truths the book propounded. After all, he said defensively, is it not the peculiar province of genius to be erratic? Dr. Wigan must not be the exception to the general rule. And perhaps recalling that few great men are ever fully appreciated in their own time, Winslow speculated that genera- tions may roll away ere a just appreciation will be made of the suggestions contained in [Wigans] celebrated treatise on the Duality of the Mind (Winslow, 1849,497).
The generations have rolled away and now, almost a century and a half after Duality of mind first saw the light of public scrutiny, an elegant new edition of Wigans celebrated treatise has been issued by the publisher Joseph Simon. It includes a foreword by Joseph Bogen, the neurosurgeon whose dramatic split-brain operations in the 1960s led Roger Sperry and his students (at Bogens invitation) to gather the still more dramatic (and, by
In reviewing an earlier draft of this paper, John Marshall tried to convince me that, in spite of Elliotsons sarcasm here, the phrenologists themselves really f e l t -no less than Wigan-that several brains were required to do several things at once. Indeed, as Marshall sees it, the phrenologists posited the existence of dozens of individual little brains, each with its own dis- tinct cognitive office. While I take Marshalls point, I nevertheless think that to call each of the phrenological organs an independent brain does a disservice to the actual teachings of Gall. To the best of my knowledge, Gall never suggested that an isolated mental faculty (tone, language, philoprogenitiveness) was tantamount to a Mind (with all the volition, personal- ity, and consciousness this idea implied in 19thxentury thought); nor did he ever say that an isolated cerebral centre or organ could properly be considered a brain. (The fact that such phrenological detractors as Flourens sometimes suggested otherwise is irrelevant here.) That Gall personally distinguished between the brain on the one hand, and its constituent organs on the other, is clearly shown by the fact that, when speaking of this structure in general terms, he actually called it a double organ. All of the brains integrant parts, he taught, existed in symmetrical duplicate, with corresponding pairs localised in corresponding parts of the two hemispheres (see Gall, 1822, in Dr. Wigan,, etc., 1845 [in passage cited, italics added]). In light of this, one can understand why the phrenologists were rather annoyed by Wigans claim in Duality of mind to have made an unprecedented conceptual breakthrough.
THE DOUBLE BRAIN 413
now, well-known) evidence for a type of duality of mind in the commis- surotomised human brain (Sperry , 1968; Gazzaniga, 1970; Levy, Travarthen, & Sperry, 1972). Bogens own relationship with Wigan dates back to these early heady years when, in an article that has since become a classic of the split-brain literature, he christened his own interpretation of the split-brain data neowiganism (Bogen, 1969a). If anyone, then, deserves to stand as the representative of a generation that has finally justly appreciated the suggestions contained in Wigans treatise, it is Bogen. His active role in bringing about this new edition of his old friends work has clearly been a labour of love.
At the same time, it would be unfair to leave the impression that earlier generations failed wholly to give Wigan his due. It is simply not the case, as Bogen affirms, that Wigans opinions and even the fact of his existence were almost wholly forgotten in the decades immediately after he wrote. In fact, Wigans work was familiar during the second ha