Julian Jaynes Society Forum

Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum: Exploring Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Theory since 1997

**PLEASE NOTE: Due to a high volume of spam registrations, forum registration is now BY REQUEST ONLY. If you'd like to register (free), please e-mail info "at" julianjaynes "dot" org. Registration will be temporarily enabled.** julianjaynes.org        
It is currently Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:17 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 3:46 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
Hello, I'm a new member here after discovering thios website recently. I hope to find the time to have a good read of the site, but I do have a question in the meantime.

I have just read Jaynes' book about consciousness and on first reading I am very impressed with his ideas. I think he is definitely on to something and in many ways my own thinking echoes his ideas (in a rather more limited fashion).

The most obvious thing to me is the extent to which consciousness of an introspective "I" kind must depend on language which seems to be the core of Jaynes' idea.

Anyway, my question is about his proposal at a general level. As I see it, we have at least two and possibly more kinds of "consciousness'.

The first would be common to all mammals and birds and probably other creatures as well. that is sentience, or the capacity to be aware of the world and to have the subjective experience of sensing the world (ie warmth, cold, pain, etc).

The second would be a more nuanced sense of the world that is formed through language. This kind of consciousness seems to be what Jaynes is referring to, and is I suspect a partially (or wholly?) learned thing. For example, a person raised without human contact and who has not learned any language may be conscious in the first way but may not be in the second.

Is this distinction a valid reading of Jaynes' theory?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 2:45 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 2:03 pm
Posts: 314
Yes, you're touching on one of the major problems plaguing the field of consciousness studies in general (i.e., lack of a widely agreed upon lexicon), and the understanding of Jaynes's theory in particular.

Most of the critiques of Jaynes's theory are by individuals who haven't read his book and think he's referring to all awareness and not just introspection.

Other scholars make the distinction between the two types of consciousness you describe, using various terminology. Jaynes does not call the first type consciousness. He refers to it as basic awareness or reactivity. When he uses consciousness, he's referring to introspectable mind-space only.

Jaynes explains how even white blood cells can respond to their environment, so by the first definition would have to be considered conscious, rendering the term almost meaningless.

For more on this, beyond Jaynes's discussion in the first two chapters of his book, please read Jan Sleutel's chapter "Greek Zombies: On the Alleged Absurdity of Substantially Unconscious Greek Minds" in Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 12:48 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
Thanks for the clarification. I thought that would be the case. This does raise some further questions though. Narrowing 'consciousness' to the idea of an introspectable mind-space is an interesting but salient demarcation in my view. It seems to me that language (in particular written language) is critical for that kind of consciousness but I disagree that other consciousness is mere reactivity. Nonetheless, language and its effects in this way are clearly a unique distinction of human beings.

The interesting thing about this is whether consciousness of this sort is a natural event, or a learned event. Jaynes suggests it arose quite recently and before that man basically hallucinated the voices in his head, yet I didn't get a sense of why he saw that changing. He talks about the breakdown of the bicameral mind and the emergence over time of modern mentality, but I didn't think he argued it was genetically spread. He even suggested that the ideas of internal thinking and not listening to Gods may have come from Asia.

So does Jaynes think it is a learned feature? I am inclined to think it is. As far as we know, the brain reached modern form at least 50,000 years ago and more like over 200,000 years ago. Of course we don't know what internal changes have occurred (eg genetically derived connectivity etc) but as far as I know there isn't a lot of evidence for substantial genetic change (well, that's not quite true but it's not a subject much welcomed for study!).

If the brain hasn't changed significantly in say 20,000 or even 10,000 years, then consciousness must be learned. But that raises questions about say the original peoples of my country. Aboriginal Australians have been in Australia at least 20,000 years with little contact with other peoples. Doesn't it mean that Aboriginal people would have had bicameral minds when white man settled Australia, yet I've seen no mention of that in historical narratives. That said, there might be some evidence for it in modern Aboriginal health matters.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:39 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 2:03 pm
Posts: 314
Yes Jaynes felt that consciousness as he defines it is learned based on metaphorical language, and then taught to each successive generation.

We are now seeing a growing body of evidence to support this in child development studies.

Pre-literate societies could have learned consciousness independently on their own trajectories. There is a quite a bit of evidence that preliterate tribes everywhere demonstrated many vestiges of bicamerality. You have to look at the descriptions from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through the lens of Jaynes's theory. For more on this, please see the "The Mentality of Pre-Literate and Pre-Modern Peoples" section of this forum and the Introduction to The Julian Jaynes Collection.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:33 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
Thanks for this. A little reading to do. On this matter of language generating consciousness, it follows that consciousness as such must be of different character for people with languages of greater or lesser complexity? In fact, how we introspect is probably different in quite marked ways between individuals even of one society and hence the degree of consciousness in individuals must vary. I think Dan Everett's experience with the Piraha people of South America is likely instructive in this respect.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2015 2:19 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
I've just begun delving into this site in detail and there is a wealth of info to read! I wanted to add a further comment which I'll do here although it might have been better in one of the other boards.

As I said above, the biggest problem seems to me to be nomenclature. No-one is really quite clear on what they mean by consciousness. Jaynes has defined it one way, but it doesn't seem to accord with the more generally accepted meaning. In some ways I can't help but feel that Jaynes is dismissing the major part of studies into consciousness by referring to it as mere reactivity.

When people talk of consciousness, I think the modern interpretation is more around what it is to actually have awareness of the world, to have an experienced internal representation of that (qualia) and to be able to adapt behaviourally in response. Various scientists and philosophers have been getting closer to what it all means and I actually rather like ideas like Jesse Prinz's AIR theory and Michael Graziano's Attention Schema model.

Interestingly, none of these talk at all about the quite remarkable internal world we generate through language, and I am curious as to why that is so. I agree that consciousness as awareness and behavioural adaptation is the more challenging matter, but I am surprised that few pay as much attention to how language has generated another facet to our internal experience. As no more than an interested reader I am not across all of the nuances and intricacies of the various ideas and theories that abound, but I do think Jaynes has uncovered a particularly relevant aspect to it all.

I just don't think he has actually tackled consciousness as it's understood. And that might be why his ideas haven't met with greater acceptance. It's hard to see how or where exactly his ideas fit.

Certainly the evidence indicates that most animals (certainly mammals and birds) are 'conscious', and some may even use rudimentary language (eg dolphins). But none have the richness of language that humans have and how exactly that plays a part in creating a rather different kind of consciousness doesn't seem to have been tackled more generally. But then again, I've barely scratched the surface so don't know how much research has actually gone into this. I'm also no psychologist so it may be that what Jaynes is doing is more identifying a quality of the psychology of self and the physical implementation of that, than he is tackling consciousness per se.

Nonetheless, I think the idea that our sense of self and an introspective mind-space is a learned experience is really very intriguing. The mentality of people from say 50000 years ago must have been very difefrent from that of today, and yet the brains are largely the same. I'd even suggest that a modern person without the relevant learning would think the same as a person of 50000 years ago and that might have great implications for the mentalities of some populations of living humans. I mentioned Dan Everett's studies earlier and I think it's worth having a read of his ideas about Piraha language because their mentality seems quite different from say mine, and this may result from a culturally derived constraint on language.

Anyway, as I said, I shall try to dig through this site and read all you have collected here.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:44 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 2:03 pm
Posts: 314
Yes reactivity to external stimuli is one aspect but I think the majority of what is often now lumped in with consciousness is sense perception. Jaynes is very clear about his definition, whereas the majority of others writing on consciousness don't define exactly what it is they are talking about, and often seem to have vague definitions that vary quite a bit throughout their discussion.

Jaynes sticks with a more traditional definition, which I think is the correct definition, a la John Locke and René Descartes, referring to our inner world and not for example what we hold in our visual field. Jaynes gives the example that one could be looking at a table while holding something else entirely in one's consciousness.

Defining consciousness so broadly as "awareness of the world," or all sense perception, then leaves us with no terminology to identify the large gulf we have (because of complex language) with all other animals. These broad definitions must include insects and even microscopic organisms. As you mentioned, it is curious that many other writers fail to address this. A notable exception is Daniel Dennett, whose discussions of consciousness are very much in line with Jaynes (i.e., infants are not conscious until they acquire language, there is no "hard problem," etc.).

When people say "most mammals" are conscious, there's no evidence that I'm aware of that they are conscious in the Jaynesian sense (or, for that matter, that infants are). So one has to be careful with the terminology. Animals are intelligent, have sense perception (often in excess of humans), but there's no reason (at least as of yet) to believe that they have the ability to introspect. It's very easy to fall into the trap of assuming consciousness is necessary for all types of different complex behaviors, when in fact introspection is totally unnecessary. Even now, large parts of one's daily life are often largely routine, and the vast majority of our decision making happens outside of our conscious awareness. As for non-human language, Jaynes more accurately describes these as "communication systems" -- it's very different from human language.

You hit on another good point that Jaynes makes -- that a person raised today in a bicameral culture would be bicameral, and a person from the bicameral era raised in a conscious culture would be conscious. Consciousness is learned through language and taught to children.

It does get confusing when we're used to thinking of babies and non-human animals as conscious, and imparting our own inner mental life on their behaviors, but like you said I think as you delve further into Jaynes's book and the follow-up books, the distinctions between for example subjective consciousness, sense perception, attention, and awareness will become easier to understand. Jaynes's interviews and question and answer sessions in The Julian Jaynes Collection may be particularly helpful. Another good thing to read is José Luis Bermudez's chapter, "The Limits of Thinking Without Words".


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 4:13 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:09 am
Posts: 17
Quote:
But that raises questions about say the original peoples of my country. Aboriginal Australians have been in Australia at least 20,000 years with little contact with other peoples.

When I asked Jaynes about the Aboriginals of Australia he did not have a clear answer. But he did think it possible and maybe likely that they were bicameral. This raises the question why nobody noticed. But this assumes that there must be a huge difference between conscious and non-conscious people. There is a difference but I think it must be a tiny difference compared to the cultural difference and the difference due to the language barrier. Coming into contact with the Europeans must have "created" consciousness almost immediately. Which is hardly believable, I admit. You mentioned Dan Everett. When I read him I was looking for hints that would strengthen Jaynes. There were some aspects that could be interpreted in favor of Jaynes but also some that would contradict him. I think it would be great to come into contact with people like the Pirahãs and to at least know about Jaynes’ theory so that you know what to look for. Of course, the risk would be to see something that does not exist, because you want to see it.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:00 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
I think this is an interesting area of uncertainty, just what is meant by consciousness. It's possible that these terms in themselves are confusing, being saddled with the baggage of historical meaning. Modern ideas of consciousness may have outstripped older senses of the words themselves.

I agree about introspective consciousness if that's what we mean by a Jaynesian consciousness - without language one is severely hampered in terms of say planning, learning, even understanding. I've practised just doing things without using words in my head and it's very limiting. I think therefore that it would be true to say that animals and infants are not conscious in that sense.

It's rather a big jump though to suggest that early man's use of language was rather involuntary although I admit to not being quite clear about how Jaynes sees this working. Did men hear voices that directed them (in some kind of hallucinatory manner) but then speak aloud without direction? Or were their spoken words reflective of some inner speech? If hallucinated voices have a real quality (that is, they sound apart and distinctively separate, perhaps even in a particular pitch and tone), why is it that our modern introspective inner voices have no quality whatsoever?

In my own analysis of my inner thinking I note several modes of auditory and visual representation and it seems to me that separate mechanisms are at work, and to be honest I don't think that introspective speech has the same quality as hallucinated or dreamed voices.

Regarding Aborigines, would we necessarily be able to tell whether they were bicameral (presuming bicamerality is true)? After all, we have no real access to another's internal experience and base our assessment of other's states of minds on behavioural responses, including verbal reports. Whether verbal reports and behaviours derive from hallucinated voices or conscious inner speech would be hard to detect, especially when you consider that much of behaviour is, as noted, largely unconscious anyway! That said, I am not aware of any evidence for them appearing to be especially different from other tribal peoples.

That in itself is curious though, because do we see that kind of evidence in any of the remote tribal groups? For example, Aborigines did not have statuary or anything of that nature, nor have I heard of anything like that with say the Innuit, or maybe Pacific Island peoples? Of course maybe they did and I just have never read of it, I am not pretending to know much about his.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:13 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 2:03 pm
Posts: 314
Regarding the widespread vestiges of bicamerality in preliterate societies, as I mentioned please see the posts in this section of the forum:

viewforum.php?f=13

Vestiges of bicamerality in preliterate societies is also discussed in the introduction to The Julian Jaynes Collection.

It is a lot to wrap one's mind around at first, but I think many of your questions will be answered as you delve into the follow up books we've published, along with the newsletters, and then we can discuss further.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 2:52 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
Thanks, yes I've since read through much of that section. And I plan to buy those books too, extraordinarily interesting even if I am not quite swayed to Jaynes' hypothesis. Sometimes I feel there are points he makes that don't quite work for me but it may be I simply misunderstand or have too brief an acquaintance with his ideas.

One such inconsistency is when he explains about consciousness not being necessary for much of our behaviour. He goes to some length to illustrate that much of everyday behaviour does not require consciousness where he means consciousness as the internal mind-space facilitated through internal narratisation. I take him to mean that typical reactive (or even proactive) behaviours can be undertaken without having to narratise them or to have some kind of unfolding manipulable model of events in mind.

This makes sense as we can observe this in everyday situations. Reaching for a glass of water, or walking down the street, or reacting in the moment to some event, simply happens without any conscious intervention. Interestingly even conscious behaviours do not require conscious appreciation - when we narratise an expected behaviour, the behaviour itelf unfolds in the same way as any other behaviour.

Yet in describing a bicameral man's mind, Jaynes suggests that such a man is unable to act without his hallucinated direction. Early in Chapter 4, Book One, Jaynes describes a bicameral mind as similar to our experience in driving a car on 'autopilot'. He then suggests that bicameral man were he driving that car should not be able to react to a new experience such as a flat tyre or an accident, but this flies in the face of the earlier notion of consciousness not being required for reactive events.

Why should bicameral man await a hallucinated voice before reacting to events? In those instances where we are confronted by a novel event, and there is time to deliberate upon the best course of action, we can and do undertake an internal narrative as we assess our options. However dealing with a flat tyre or an accident builds upon learned skills and prior experience and requires no narratisation at all. As Jaynes observes, reacting does not need consciousness. We just do not direct that much of our own behaviour consciously. In fact, reactions to sudden events require visual imagery not auditory imagery.

So while I think I have sympathy for the proposition that early man's awareness and behaviour would have been more like that of other animals it seems too big a leap to me to assume that anything other than habituated behaviour required a hallucination to occur before bicameral man could respond to an event.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2016 2:08 am 
Offline

Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:31 am
Posts: 11
Why should bicameral man await a hallucinated voice before reacting to events?

I think you may misunderstand what a hallucinated voice is, as opposed to internal narration.
It is a matter of perception, not origin, that is the difference between bicamerality and consciousness.

We moderns don't hear a voice commanding us what to do in novel situations, we engage in an internal conversation, though not necessarily consciously.

In the instance of someone having a flat tire for the first time in his life, he may have a subconscious conversation that goes like this: "What is that noise? Why is the car swerving to the left?" Then "Oh, it must be a flat tire!" "What should I do?" "I need to slow down and pull over." All of that goes through his mind without awareness within the space of a second or two.

The bicameral man would experience the second and fourth responses as the voice of a god; we perceive those responses as coming from ourselves.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:51 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:37 am
Posts: 14
You may be right.

I noted above the distinctive qualitative difference between hallucinated voices (and I am able to generate such voices with the right state of mind, so I know what they sound like) and internal narration. It does seem to me that these voices, whatever they are, have a quite distinct sound - sometimes they sound like people I know, sometimes they just take the form of people talking. But each sounds like a specific individual. These never occur spontaneously as Jaynes describes his own experience (although that's not quite true now I reflect upon it - there are occasions where I am sure I've heard someone call my name, or thought they said something when they didn't, so perhaps those everyday events are the same thing), so it's not something that offers me any guidance or direction.

But the point is, these voices are clearly of an individual character. Internal narration does not have that at all. My own thoughts have no quality whatsoever. This means that for some reason, bicamerality required a mechanism that allowed ancient man to hear his own thoughts with a quality that suggested an external origin. Presumably he had no 'thoughts' of his own where by thoughts I mean internally spoken words. Or if he did, these had the same lack of quality as modern internal narration? This then means that integration of the internal dialogue to produce modern internal narration requires that the hallucinated voices lose their very character (after all, it can only be their character that leads one to perceive a voice or thought as externally sourced). And only those thoughts that are directive or from the "God" side of the conversation? This seems a little strange to me.

Regardless, my point above was more that I don't think we actually DO have that internal dialogue in times of novel situations, except those where time is not of the essence. You agree with this when you observe that our internal dialogue in the case of a flat tyre is "not necessarily conscious", or is a "subconscious dialogue", or happens "without awareness in the space of a second or two". Actually, I suggest in urgent novel situations it takes less than a second or two, it really is quite remarkable how fast the brain models options and outcomes and decides on a course of action. Many people, especially those in life or death situations or sports people "in the moment", experience this as time slowing down.

If our modern decision making process is not conducted in a conscious, "heard" narration but is rather subconscious or outside of awareness, something I'd agree with, then why should that not also have been the case for ancient man?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: A point of clarification - what does Jaynes mean?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 7:28 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:16 pm
Posts: 10
Although our internal non-hallucinated voices do not sound like distinct characters, therein lines a problem with modern consciousnesses- our internal voices could be deceiving us. Although Freud's theories are usually disparaged, id vs superego with ego being a filter is certainly how my mind works. I get one thought which is pitching selfish short term petty desires, another pitching to be civilized, disciplined, and behaved, with long term thinking, and then the ego acts or does no act accordingly. Are there three I's there or one or two? The voices sounded the same, but had different messages. Once I act upon them, the voice which got voted down disappears for the moment, but will come back and riddle me with guilt, either by missing an opportunity to be selfish or to chastise me for being selfish.

In the book "The Julian Jaynes Collection" Julian does not quite link our modern internal dialogue (monologue) to the God in the bicameral mind. He says we are experiencing a new form of consciousness, which is a work in progress. Julian is not quite sold on the "unconscious" like Freud and Jung.

It sounds like you are referring to flight vs fight response or being in the zone at the end of your paragraph, i.e. instant responses to a novel situation. But in Jaynes's version of history, a novel situation can also be, say, rebuilding your civilization after invaders came, or any situation which requires thinking outside of the box.

Anyway, I too, would recommend that you read the follow-up books because it makes sense when I read them. But it is hard for me to explain.


GraemeM wrote:

I noted above the distinctive qualitative difference between hallucinated voices (and I am able to generate such voices with the right state of mind, so I know what they sound like) and internal narration. It does seem to me that these voices, whatever they are, have a quite distinct sound - sometimes they sound like people I know, sometimes they just take the form of people talking. But each sounds like a specific individual. These never occur spontaneously as Jaynes describes his own experience (although that's not quite true now I reflect upon it - there are occasions where I am sure I've heard someone call my name, or thought they said something when they didn't, so perhaps those everyday events are the same thing), so it's not something that offers me any guidance or direction.

But the point is, these voices are clearly of an individual character. Internal narration does not have that at all. My own thoughts have no quality whatsoever. This means that for some reason, bicamerality required a mechanism that allowed ancient man to hear his own thoughts with a quality that suggested an external origin. Presumably he had no 'thoughts' of his own where by thoughts I mean internally spoken words. Or if he did, these had the same lack of quality as modern internal narration? This then means that integration of the internal dialogue to produce modern internal narration requires that the hallucinated voices lose their very character (after all, it can only be their character that leads one to perceive a voice or thought as externally sourced). And only those thoughts that are directive or from the "God" side of the conversation? This seems a little strange to me.

Regardless, my point above was more that I don't think we actually DO have that internal dialogue in times of novel situations, except those where time is not of the essence. You agree with this when you observe that our internal dialogue in the case of a flat tyre is "not necessarily conscious", or is a "subconscious dialogue", or happens "without awareness in the space of a second or two". Actually, I suggest in urgent novel situations it takes less than a second or two, it really is quite remarkable how fast the brain models options and outcomes and decides on a course of action. Many people, especially those in life or death situations or sports people "in the moment", experience this as time slowing down.

If our modern decision making process is not conducted in a conscious, "heard" narration but is rather subconscious or outside of awareness, something I'd agree with, then why should that not also have been the case for ancient man?


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron


Gods, Voices and the Bicameral Mind               Julian Jaynes Collection               Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness               The Minds of the Bible               Abstracts from the 2013 Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies



Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007~ phpBB Group