Re: Julian Jaynes

Jeffrey Fischer (
17 Jan 1995 01:50:52 GMT

>How does Jaynes deal with the eminently conscious Australian Aborigines
>etc? How does he reconcile his thoughts with evidence of practices such
>as art / burial ceremonies etc going back many tens of thousands of years?
>Rod Hagen

I'm really glad to hear people talking about Jaynes's ideas. I read
his book decades ago, but the ideas were compelling.

Yes, ancient cultures may have achieved remarkable things -- Pyramids
no less than "art/burial ceremonies" -- but Jaynes points out that there is
no reason to suppose that their "consciousness" was anything remotely like
out "consciousness."

It's sort of like that guy who'd get all philosophical while getting
stoned and ask, "How do I know that the color red to you is the same as the
color red to me?" You can't. (Admittedly, recent findings that there are
two alleles for that particular eye pigment that do respond differently to
red light is not as cogent as Dennis Miller's response on Saturday Night
Live: check the crayon box and get away from me.)

From there, Jaynes makes striking use of Biblical and Greek literat-
ure to show that, around three thousand years ago, people seem to have
experienced an intuitive, non-logical mode of thinking marked by audible
internal voices; then suddenly they didn't. He extends the argument to
MesoAmerican cultures but on shakier ground.

There's no biological reason to assume that the species evolved all
across the globe at the same time; and I recall being far less than impressed
by Jaynes' anatomical musings. (It's unfortunate that, soon after he
published, brain hemisphere studies became the domain of women's magazine
articles and serious research declined markedly.)

He left me, though, with a very different view of those books of the
Bible that seem to narrate the years of change, mostly Samuel, Chronicles,
and Psalms.

I look forward to more discussion.

- jeff

I want to die peacefully ! Jeff Fischer ! "The vicar is late
in my sleep, like my ! 1L at UT Law School ! in coming today,"
grandfather....not ! ! said the Duchess,
screaming in terror like ! ! stirring her tea
his passengers. ! ! with her other hand
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