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Has anyone read Julain Jaynes?

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The book is entitled "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". By Julian Jaynes.

I havn't got a hold of it yet (paydays coming soon)...but I've read a lot of material on it and I know the basic premise. It basically explains the evolution of our consciousness and how society came to fall into mysticism and beliefs in gods.

If anyone has read it, I would appreciate some form of feedback on it. I'm a bit hesitant to read it because of the controversy surrounding the book. From what I understand Julian Jaynes recieved a LARGe amount of critisism from the religious world (understandably) and the scientific community.

I'll be picking it up friday regardless.

Oh yeah, here's the link to the book: Click Here

~Michael

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The book is entitled "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind".  By Julian Jaynes.

Yikes! Michael, if you want to learn more about consciousness (first choice is the vast Objectivist material) then at least read from someone who has not made a career spouting nonsense. Try John Searle http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jsearle/

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Yikes! Michael, if you want to learn more about consciousness (first choice is the vast Objectivist material) then at least read from someone who has not made a career spouting nonsense. Try John Searle http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jsearle/

I have read this book twice and did find the hypothesis he offers interesting. I'm curious Stephen as to what exactly you disagree with. Was it his analysis of historical literature; ie homer, the Bible, etc? Was it his theories relating to the bicameral chambers of the brain? He does seem to be making a not too implausible argument as for the biological reasons for the belief in gods. That's what I always liked about it. It seemed to explain, through the biology of the brain, why humanity has developed what Jeynes calls 'systems of external authorization'; ie God and religion.

You're the scientist. So I will defer to you. But I didn't find anything that offensive about it. And certainly nothing that would contradict Objectivism. I thought it fit in quite nicely.

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I have read this book twice and did find the hypothesis he offers interesting. I'm curious Stephen as to what exactly you disagree with. Was it his analysis of historical literature; ie homer, the Bible, etc? Was it his theories relating to the bicameral chambers of the brain? He does seem to be making a not too implausible argument as for the biological reasons for the belief in gods. That's what I always liked about it. It seemed to explain, through the biology of the brain, why humanity has developed what Jeynes calls 'systems of external authorization'; ie God and religion.

You're the scientist. So I will defer to you. But I didn't find anything that offensive about it. And certainly nothing that would contradict Objectivism. I thought it fit in quite nicely.

I thought the concepts fit in quite nicely with Objectivism as well, especially if you look to the first chapter of the "For The New Intellectual". While Ayn Rand explains the attilla and the whichdoctor.

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I'm a bit hesitant to read it because of the controversy surrounding the book. 

I've also read the book, and found it "interesting". I cannot find an immediate reason to reject the hypothesis, though it must be seen as an unprovable hypothesis, and more a subject of history than of psychology.

But my real question for you is based on the quote from your original post. Why are you hesistant to ready something controversial? If you are hesistant because of the potential waste of money / waste of your time, then that is understandable; however, to be hesistant based only on the commentary of others is not ethical.

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I've also read the book, and found it "interesting".  I cannot find an immediate reason to reject the hypothesis, though it must be seen as an unprovable hypothesis, and more a subject of history than of psychology.

But my real question for you is based on the quote from your original post.  Why are you hesistant to ready something controversial?  If you are hesistant because of the potential waste of money / waste of your time, then that is understandable; however, to be hesistant based only on the commentary of others is not ethical.

It is deffinately the waste of money / time issue. I already have 6 books in line for me to finish and adding another monster of a book wouldn't be the best option (too much for me to take).

I'll probably read it pretty soon just to see his full take on it, but from what I understand of his theory it seems very logical.

I believe that our consciousness can evolve too and perhaps we are on the brink of a new evolution.

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I haven't read Janes but I will tell you that I have wasted more time than I care to recall on consciousness books. I would just second what Stephen has recommended . Searle has said some very good things but he has also said some very, very bad things about consciousness.

In my experience, the nature of consciousness is one of the most abstruse topics for non-Objectivists and Objectivists alike. It is so easy to swallow irrational ideas on this topic even if you think you are well-equipped enough to handle it. In addition to the obvious material from Miss Rand and Dr. Peikoff, I would highly recommend Dr. Binswanger's lectures on consciousness. Until you have thoroughly chewed this material, consider yourself at risk!!

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I always looked at Jeynes book this way: I felt that he offered an explanation for the biological origins of consciousness while Rand described the epistemological methods that consciousness operated by. I never viewed them as contradictory.

I think at the least he does show through his analysis of historical literature that some shift occured in man's perception of himself (this by the way is a point I have seen elsewhere; Bruno Snell makes a similar point in his book on Ancient Greek thinkers). At some point man does become far more introspective and self aware in his outlook. Jeynes chapter were he compares the Illiad and the Oddessy seems to make a pretty good case for that.

I'm not saying that everything Jeynes says is Gospel (to use a phrase) and proving his hypothesis would take a ton of research I am sure. But I wouldn't call it 'kooky' or 'wacko' offhand. It doesn't strain credulity. It seems rather plausable to me.

And I loved the chapter on Scizophrenia too. Good stuff.

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I'm curious Stephen as to what exactly you disagree with.... But I didn't find anything that offensive about it. And certainly nothing that would contradict Objectivism.

Jaynes is certainly not the worst that the cognitive sciences have to offer. My suggestion to Michael was meant such that if he was going to spend time reading Jaynes he would be much better off reading someone like John Searle who, by comparison, is a lot more right and a lot less wrong about consciousness than is Jaynes. (Not to mean that Searle even approaches the Objectivist view, but he does represent the more rational element in the field).

As to Jaynes: I have not read his book (and have no intention of doing so), but I have read a number of his journal papers. I find his bicameral thesis to be absurd. He thinks the Egyptians who built the pyramids had no consciousness, no volition, other than the volition of auditory hallucinations. Every last detail of the construction of the pyramids and temples, as well as the details on how to build the tools, was literally dictated by the gods. The characters in the Illiad had no introspection, they were not conscious. He allows that art and music was created in this non-conscious world. Even in the modern world he thinks that all art is partly, and sometimes always, of a non-conscious origin. He is confused about the relationship of consciousness to perception. He thinks that children are not conscious until they use language. His theory of emotions is muddled and some of his views on concepts are all wrong.

I really do not want to spend time on Jaynes, but that is just a few of the concerns. As I said, my intention to Michael was to suggest a (relatively) better value in Searle. As I also pointed out, the first place for Michael to look would be in the Objectivist material.

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As to Jaynes: I have not read his book (and have no intention of doing so), but I have read a number of his journal papers. I find his bicameral thesis to be absurd. He thinks the Egyptians who built the pyramids had no consciousness, no volition, other than the volition of auditory hallucinations. Every last detail of the construction of the pyramids and temples, as well as the details on how to build the tools, was literally dictated by the gods. The characters in the Illiad had no introspection, they were not conscious. He allows that art and music was created in this non-conscious world. Even in the modern world he thinks that all art is partly, and sometimes always, of a non-conscious origin. He is confused about the relationship of consciousness to perception. He thinks that children are not conscious until they use language. His theory of emotions is muddled.

All fair points and valid criticisms. That's why you're the scientist.

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He thinks the Egyptians who built the pyramids had no consciousness, no volition, other than the volition of auditory hallucinations.

I received the book as a gift in 1987, about a year after I started seriously reading Rand. I started reading the forward, and when I got to the part where he tries to highlight the mysterious nature of consciousness by pointing out it's lack of physical characteristics, and especially when he belittled concepts with the idea that "no one has ever seen a tree, only this or that particular one", the book became a door stop for about 15 years.

However a couple years ago a guy I worked with who is quite intelligent and a good manager told me he'd read it, and that I was the first person he'd met who'd heard of the book, and he recommended I read it, so I did. Unfortunately our paths parted shortly afterward and I never got a chance to discuss it with him.

My understanding of Jaynes' theory is not so much that bicameral men lacked volition and consciousness, but that their experience of consciousness was extremely different than ours. They had volition, but it was not something they consciously experienced as such - it was experienced indirectly as auditory hallucinations. The hallucinations were not random neuron firings, but were the result of primitive, obviously non-rational "thinking" - maybe better described as associating - that went on unconsciously.

I found his idea that bicameral consciousness was both maintained by social interactions, and after it evolved to normal consciousness is held off by social interactions, to be interesting. It approaches social metaphysics, but it's more like "social psycho-epistemology". I also often wonder if when I engage in mental/imaginary dialogs with myself or with people who aren't around ("if he says this, I'll say that..."), it isn't vestigial bicameral mental behavior. And had I not be raised in modern society, and somehow survived to adulthood without any training, whether this kind of mental chatter could have become so intense as to be externalized in the form of hallucinations.

His theory explains how modern society arose out of mysticism and belief in gods, not how society fell into it. Mysticism and belief in gods is the default. Rand talks about this with respect to savages and early childhood consciousness.

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My understanding of Jaynes' theory is not so much that bicameral men lacked volition and consciousness, but that their experience of consciousness was extremely different than ours. They had volition, but it was not something they consciously experienced as such - it was experienced indirectly as auditory hallucinations. The hallucinations were not random neuron firings, but were the result of primitive, obviously non-rational "thinking" - maybe better described as associating - that went on unconsciously.

Huh? First, I do not think you understand the Objectivist view of volition and the nature of consciousness. Volition that is "experienced indirectly as auditory hallucinations" is not volition. Second, I do no think you understand Jaynes' thesis. When in a journal paper Jaynes says "I am a strict behaviorist up to 1000 B.C. when consciousness develops in the one species that has a syntactic language, namely ourselves," you think he was kidding? When explaining why others have difficulty believing that "ancient people were not conscious," Jaynes notes that "we tend to infer that anything that acts like us is conscious," and that "it is very difficult to suspend that habit of projecting consciousness in thinking about ancient civilizations or even in animals close to us or even in newborn infants."

I saw in an earlier post that after reading Santayana you became convinced that religion ought to be an objective value in man's life and you think that Objectivists should infiltrate the churches they abandoned and reclaim the great and beautiful traditions for the rational religionists. Perhaps Jaynes' view of man might help you with that endeavor. :)

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Volition that is "experienced indirectly as auditory hallucinations" is not volition.

Agreed. It would be a kind of "pre-volition".

Second, I do no think you understand Jaynes' thesis.

Probably not. I do have a habit projecting some kind of sense into non-sense.

The book does make a good door stop, and I won't budge on that ! :)

I saw in an earlier post that after reading Santayana you became convinced that religion ought to be an objective value in man's life and you think that Objectivists should infiltrate the churches they abandoned and reclaim the great and beautiful traditions for the rational religionists.

I don't recommend it as a general practice - only for those who have any inclination to do so.

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Agreed. It would be a kind of "pre-volition".

All I know of is "volitional" and "non-volitional." I have no idea what "pre-volition" is supposed to mean.

I don't recommend it as a general practice - only for those who have any inclination to do so.

I would think that for an Objectivist "rational religionists" would be seen as a contradiction in terms, at least as far as the word rational being applied to a religion. Religion is a matter of faith, the opposite of rational. Why would an Objectivist want to "infiltrate" a church? I can understand why we would want to reclaim the tradition of scholarship in academia, but why would an Objectivist want to reclaim the "great and beautiful" traditions of the church?

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All I know of is "volitional" and "non-volitional." I have no idea what "pre-volition" is supposed to mean.

Jaynes calls his work something like "psychological archeology" - an attempt to explore how human consciousness might have been prior to it's present condition. It's the only thing I've ever read like this, and like I said, I probably don't have a very accurate understanding of his theory.

It seems unlikely that, when the homo sapiens DNA pattern arrived on the scene, it's first organisms would have fully functional human consciousness with all it's present capabilities.

Are there other, better, theories you'd recommend ?

[i took the liberty of answering your other question over in "Ethics->Objectivists Need a Church, Too" ]

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It seems unlikely that, when the homo sapiens DNA pattern arrived on the scene, it's first organisms would have fully functional human consciousness with all it's present capabilities.

Whether that is true or not, is not the point. What I am objecting to are the specific notions advanced by Jaynes.

Are there other, better, theories you'd recommend ?

No. The problem is, since most all researchers in the cognitive sciences do not yet grasp the nature of consciousness as it exists now, it is not surprising that they would have such difficulty discovering anything about its morphological development.

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