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"The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds
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Author:  Moderator [ Sat Aug 04, 2007 4:38 pm ]
Post subject:  "The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds

In addition to "The Discovery of the Mind" by Bruno Snell, "The Greeks and the Irrational" is another important book for further understanding Jaynes's theory with regard to the ancient Greeks.

I'll be posting some relevant quotes soon in order to encourage discussion of book.

Author:  erikweijers [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  "The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds

Allow me to reply with a first quote of Dodds, which clearly shows that Jaynes was influenced by him. In this case the argument that the gods were not merely a poetic device of the author(s) of the Odyssey:

'But the most characteristic feature of the Odyssey is the way in which its personages ascribe all sorts of mental (as well as physical) events to the intervention of a nameless and indeterminate daemon or "god" or "gods". These vaguely conceived beings can inspire courage at a crisis or take away a man's understanding, just as the gods do in the Iliad. But they are also credited with a wide range of what may be called loosely "monitions." When someone has a particularly foolish idea; when he suddenly recognises another person's identity or sees in a flash the meaning of an omen, when he remembers what he might well have forgotten or forgets what he should have remembered, he or someone else will see in it, if we are to take the words literally, a psychic intervention by one of these anonymous supernatural beings. Doubtless they do not always expect to be taken literally: Odysseus, for example, is hardly serious in ascribing to the machinations of a daemon the fact that he went without his cloak on a cold night. But we are not dealing simply with an "epic convention". For it is the poet's characters who talk like this, and not the poet: his own convention is quite other - he operates, like the author of the Iliad, with clear-cut anthropomorphic gods such as Athena and Poseidon, not with anonymous daemons. If he has made his characters employ a different convention, he has presumably done so because that is how people did in fact talk: he is being "realistic."' (The Greeks and the Irrational, p.11/12 of ch.1: Agamemnon's Apology)

Author:  Moderator [ Sat Sep 01, 2007 12:27 am ]
Post subject:  "The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds

Thank you, Erik, for getting the ball rolling... I'll expand this post over the next few weeks and hopefully others will join in as well.

Chapter 1 – Agamemnon's Apology

"... let us ... consider briefly another kind of "psychic intervention" which is no less frequent in Homer, namely, the communcation of power from god to man. In the Iliad, the typical case is the commuication of menos during a battle, as when Athena puts a triple portion of menos into the chest of her protégé Diomede, or Apollo puts menos into the thumos of the wounded Glaucus. This menos is not primarily physical strength; nor is it a permanent organ of mental life like thumos or noos. Rather is is, like ate, a state of mind. When a man feels menos in his chest, or "thrusting up pungently into his nostrils," he is conscious of a mysterious access of energy; the life in him is strong, and he is filled witha new confidence and eagerness. The connection of menos with the sphere of volition comes out clearly in the related words [Greek text], "to be eager," and [Greek text] "wishing ill." It is significant that often, though not always, a communication of menos comes as a response to prayer. But it is something much more spontaneous and instinctive than what we call "resolution"; animals can have it, and it is used by analogy to describe the devouring energy of fire. In man it is the vital energy, the "spunk," which is not always there at call, but comes and goes mysteriously and (as we should say) capriciously. But to Homer it is not caprice: it is the act of a god, who "increases or diminishes at will a man's arete (that is to say, his potency as a fighter). Sometimes, indeed, the menos can be roused by verbal exhortation; at other times its onset can only be explained by saying that a god has "breathed it into" the hero, or "put it in his chest," or, as we read in one place, transmitted it by contact, through a staff" (pgs. 8-9).

Dodds continues,

"Men who have received a communication of menos are several times compared to ravening lions; but the most striking description of the state is in Book 15, where Hector goes berserk [Greek text], he foams at the mouth, and his eyes glow. From such cases it is only a step to the idea of actual possession [Greek text]; but it is a step which Homer does not take" (p. 10).

On the topic of individuals frequently receiving thoughts or monitions from unknown gods or daemons:

"As Ehnmark has pointed out, similar vague language in reference to the supernatural was commonly used by Greeks at all periods, not out of scepticism, but simply because they could not identify the particular god concerned. It is also commonly used by primitive peoples, whether for the same reason or because they lacked the idea of personal gods. That its use by the Greeks is very old is shown by the high antiquity of the adjective daemonios. That word must have originally meant "acting at the monition of a daemon..." (p. 12).

"... All departures from normal human behaviour whose causes are not immediately perceived, whether by the subjects' own consciousness or by the observation of others, are ascribed to a supernatural agency, just as is any departure from the normal behaviour of the weather or the normal behaviour of a bowstring. This finding will not surprise the nonclassical anthropologist: he will at once produce copious parallels from Borneo or Central Africa" (p. 13).

"A man's thumos tells him that he must now eat or drink or slay an enemy, it advises him on his course of action, it puts words into his mouth ... He can converse with it, or with his 'heart' or his 'belly,' almost man to man. Sometimes he scolds these detached entities ... ; usually he takes their advice, but he may also reject it and act, as Zeus does on one occasion, 'without the consent of his thumos' ... for Homeric man the thumos tends not to be felt as part of the self: it commonly appears as an independent inner voice. A man may even have two such voices..." (p. 16).

Author:  Moderator [ Mon Sep 03, 2007 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  "The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds

Chapter 2 – From Shame Culture to Guilt Culture

In this chapter we see what Jaynes describes in the Afterword to the 1990 edition as the transition from basic emotions to emotions that require consciousness. Even animals such as dogs experience shame, but guilt requires consciousness.

Chapter 3 – The Blessings of Madness

Chapter 3 describes the importance of trance states and hallucination to the Greeks for purposes of divine revelation.

On the occurence of mental illness in ancience Greece:

Dodds quotes Lawson, "'Mental derangement, which appears to me to be exceedingly common among the Greek peasants, sets the sufferer not merely apart from his fellows but in a sense above them. His utterances are received with a certain awe, and so far as they are intelligible are taken as predictions' (Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, 299). On the prophetic gifts attributed to epileptics see Temkin, op. cit., 149 ff" (p. 85).

This supports Jaynes's theory in that, if he is correct, we would expect to see a higher occurence of what we today term mental illness shortly after the breakdown of the bicameral mind.

On similarities between the ancient Greeks and primitive societies with regard to trance states and hallucinatory revelation:

"Soph. Ajax 243 f. It is a widespread belief among primitives that persons in abnormal mental states speak a special 'divine' language; cf. e.g., Oesterreich, op. cit., 232, 272; N.K. Chadwick, Poetry and Prophecy, 18 f., 37 f. Compare also the pseudo-languages spoken by certain automatists and religious enthusiasts, who are often said, like Ajax, to have learned them from "the spirits" (E. Lombard, De la glossolalie chez les premiers chretiens et les phenomenes similaires, 25 ff.)" (p. 85).

Chapter 4 – Dream-Pattern and Culture Pattern

Chapter 4 describes the nature of dreams in ancient Greeks and how dreams changes as culture [or consciousness] changes. Dodds describes what Jaynes would probably refer to as "bicameral dreams" — dreams that consist of a visitation and the communication of some type of message or command.

"Ancient literature is full of these 'godsent' dreams in which a single dream-figure presents itself, as in Homer, to the sleeper, and gives him prophecy, advice, or warning" (p. 107).

"Such dreams played an important part in the life of other ancient peoples, as they do in that of many races to-day. Most of the dreams recorded in Assyrian, Hittite, and ancient Egyptian literature are 'divine dreams' in which a god appears and delivers a plain message to the sleeper, sometimes predicting the future, sometimes demanding cult" (pgs. 108-109).

On the frequency of hallucinations and visions:

"As I have mentioned self-induced visions in connection with the Asclepius cult, I may add a couple of general remarks on waking visions or hallucinations. It is likely that these were commoner in former times than they are to-day, since they seem to be relatively frequent among primitives; and even with us they are less rare than is often supposed. They have in general the same origin and psychological structure as dreams, and like dreams they tend to reflect traditional culture-patterns. Among the Greeks, by far the commonest type is the apparition of a god or the hearing of a diving voice which commands or forbids the performance of certain acts. This type figures, under the name of 'spectaculum,' in Chalcidius' classification of dreams and visions; his example is the daemonion of Socrates. When all allowance has been made for the influence of literary tradition in creating a stereotyped form, we should probably conclude that experiences of this kind had once been fairly frequent, and still occurred occasionally in historical times" (pgs. 116-117).

Author:  Moderator [ Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:33 pm ]
Post subject:  "The Greeks and the Irrational" by E.R. Dodds

Chapter 5 – The Greek Shamans and Puritanism

Ancient Greek burial practices (cited by Jaynes):

"Not only object offerings but actual feeding-tubes are found even in cremation burials. At Olynthus, where nearly 600 interments of the sixth to the fourth century B.C. have been examined, object-offerings are, in fact, commonest in cremation burials. This must mean one of two things: either that cremation was after all not intended, as Rohde thought, to divorce ghost from corpse by abolishing the latter; or else that the old unreasoning habits of tendence were too deeply rooted to be disturbed by any such measures. Meuli points out that in Tertullian's time people continued to feed the cremated dead; and that, despite the initial disapproval of the Church, the use of feeding-tubes has persisted in teh Balkans almost down to our own day" (p. 158).

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