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Supporting Evidence: New Research
Supporting Jaynes' Bicameral Mind Theory

Ancient Texts: Studies of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible

Supporting Evidence > Ancient Texts: Studies of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible


Julian Jaynes found important evidence for dating the development of consciousness by contrasting the lack of introspection and mental subjectivity in the Iliad versus the clear descriptions of these that are found in the Odyssey. Below is a small sample of research relevant to this aspect of Jaynes's theory.

Dividing Homer (continued): Innovation vs. Tradition in Homer - an Overlooked Piece of Evidence
Berg, Nils and Dag Haug. Symbolae Osloenses, 2000, 75 (1).
In Homeric studies, the evidence of metrics has often been overlooked. The authors argue that the hexameter must be a recent development, closely bound up with the transition from an Aeolic to a Ionic phase in the development of the epic diction. The Ionic phase must have been very short, and the rise of the Iliad is probably also to be situated at the very moment of change in meter and dialect.

A Quantitative Philology of Introspection
Diuk, Carlos G., D. Fernandez Slezak, I. Raskovsky, M. Sigman, and G. A. Cecchi. Frontiers for Integrative Neuroscience, 2012, 6 , 80.
The cultural evolution of introspective thought has been recognized to undergo a drastic change during the middle of the first millennium BC. This period, known as the "Axial Age," saw the birth of religions and philosophies still alive in modern culture, as well as the transition from orality to literacy — which led to the hypothesis of a link between introspection and literacy. Here we set out to examine the evolution of introspection in the Axial Age, studying the cultural record of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian literary traditions. Using a statistical measure of semantic similarity, we identify a single "arrow of time" in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and a more complex non-monotonic dynamics in the Greco-Roman tradition reflecting the rise and fall of the respective societies. A comparable analysis of the twentieth century cultural record shows a steady increase in the incidence of introspective topics, punctuated by abrupt declines during and preceding the First and Second World Wars. Our results show that (a) it is possible to devise a consistent metric to quantify the history of a high-level concept such as introspection, cementing the path for a new quantitative philology and (b) to the extent that it is captured in the cultural record, the increased ability of human thought for self-reflection that the Axial Age brought about is still heavily determined by societal contingencies beyond the orality-literacy nexus.

Literary Evidence for the Cultural Development of a Theory of Mind
Gordon, Andrew and Anish Nair. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2003, July 31-Aug. 2.
The term Theory of Mind is used within the cognitive sciences to refer to the abilities that people have to reason about their own mental states and the mental states of others. An important question is whether these abilities are culturally acquired or innate to our species. This paper outlines the argument that the mental models that serve as the basis for Theory of Mind abilities are the product of cultural development. To support this thesis, we present evidence gathered from the large-scale automated analysis of text corpora. We show that the Freudian conception of a subconscious desire is a relatively modern addition to our culturally shared Theory of Mind, as evidenced by a shift in the way these ideas appeared in 19th and 20th century English language novels.

Major Systems of Thematic Resonance in the Iliad
Heiden, Bruce. Symbolae Osloenses, 2000, 75 (1).
It has been suggested (Heiden 1996) that in the Iliad thematically analogous "Achilles-decision" books (books 1, 9, and 16) and thematically analogous "Zeus-decision" books (books 8, 15, and 24) are arranged in analogous positions at the beginnings and ends of three "movements" (1-8, 9-15, 16-24 = A1-Z1, A2-Z2, A3-Z3). This observation provides the key to a comprehensive system that relates many distant segments of the Iliad. The parallel relationship of thematically resonant beginnings and ends extends to the interior segments of the "movements." Moreover, each movement displays an internal arrangement based on symmetrical ring composition. These two systems are coordinated. They might have served to cue audience recall and comparison of distant thematically resonant segments.

The Greek Origins of Belief
Johnson, David Martel. American Philosophical Inquiry, Oct. 1987, 24 (4).

The Evolution of the Concept of Psyche from Homer to Aristotle
Katona, Gabor. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 2002, 22 (1): 28-44.
In the following essay I examine those aspects of the evolution of the concept of psyche from Homer to Aristotle that show striking dissimilarities with our modern understanding of the soul/mind. In my analysis I will give more room to the problem of the Homeric soul-words, for Homer's picture of the soul seems to be especially challenging for our conceptual schemes. My guiding suspicion during this study is that there is a temptation for modern students of this subject (like myself) to suppose a greater continuity between their understanding of what it is to be a soul or mind and ancient thinkers' grasp of the same experiential field than is warranted by available textual evidence. I will focus on some of the astonishing features of the concept of psyche from Homer to Aristotle — features that I was, hopefully, able to reconstruct in spite of the assimilating force of my prejudices.

The Gods of The Iliad and the Fate of Troy
Kip, A. Maria Van Erp Taalman. Mnemosyne, 2000, 53 (4).

Characterization Through Gnomai in Homer's Iliad
Lardinois, A. Mnemosyne, 2000, 53 (6).

The Muses and Creative Inspiration: Homer to Milton
McHugh, Kathleen Potthoff. UNF Theses and Dissertations, 1993, Paper 85.
Tracing the influences and references to the Muses in written language from Ancient Greece through the end of the English Renaissance, I discover transformations and revivals in their usage. There are shifts from dependence on deified inspiration to the development of personal insight. Also, there appears to be a conscious substituting of the Muses with the beloved and Cupid or Apollo. But the Muses' religious significance returns in Paradise Lost. The first part of this thesis focuses on the early Greek writers: Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Plato, and the Latin writers: ovid, Virgil, Boethius. The second part addresses the English poetic tradition from Chaucer through Milton. The poets cited for this section are Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe and Milton. Presentations of the Muses or a personally chosen muse during these literary periods display conceptions of what originally motivates literary creation. I cover both the epic and lyric poetic traditions.

Plato's Vowels: How the Alphabet Influenced the Evolution of Consciousness
Poletti, Frank. World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, 2002, Volume 58, Issue 1.
Beginning with Ken Wilber's framework for the evolution of human consciousness, this essay investigates the critical threshold crossed around the year 500 B.C.E., when human consciousness in the Western world transformed from a predominantly oral and tribal framework to a largely written and abstract one. This transformation has been called the birth of the mental-ego-the birth of an autonomous, willful, and uniquely individual consciousness. Yet, in the Western world this birth was inextricably influenced by a completely novel literary invention-the Greek version of the alphabet. Living at the precise moment when this new invention was rapidly proliferating throughout ancient Greece, the Western world's most famous philosopher, Plato, posited his ontology of human disconnection from the sensory world. For Plato, the "real world" is the abstract world of transcendent Ideas, of which our sensory, human world is only a pale reflection. The following essay asks, then: is it just a mere coincidence that the world's most abstract literacy tool (the Greek alphabet) and the world's most abstract and disembodied philosophy (Plato's theory of Ideas) just happened to flourish in ancient Greece at exactly the same time in history?

The Emergence of the Modern Concept of Introspection: A Quantitative Linguistic Analysis
Raskovsky, I., D. Fernandez Slezak, C.G. Diuk and G.A. Cecchi. 2010. Young Investigators Workshop on Computational Approaches to Languages of the Americas: Proceedings of the Workshop, June 6, pgs. 68–75.
The evolution of literary styles in the western tradition has been the subject of extended research that arguably has spanned centuries. In particular, previous work has conjectured the existence of a gradual yet persistent increase of the degree of self-awareness or introspection, i.e. that capacity to expound on one's own thought processes and behaviors, reflected in the chronology of the classical literary texts. This type of question has been traditionally addressed by qualitative studies in philology and literary theory. In this paper, we describe preliminary results based on the application of computational linguistics techniques to quantitatively analyze this hypothesis. We evaluate the appearance of introspection in texts by searching words related to it, and focus on simple studies on the Bible. This preliminary results are highly positive, indicating that it is indeed possible to statistically discriminate between texts based on a semantic core centered around introspection, chronologically and culturally belonging to different phases. In our opinion, the rigurous extension of our analysis can provide not only a stricter statistical measure of the evolution of introspection, but also means to investigate subtle differences in aesthetic styles and cognitive structures across cultures, authors and literary forms.

Sources of Persuasion in the Iliad
Reyes, G. Mitchell. Rhetoric Review, 2002, 21 (1): 22-39.

Whose Anticipations?
Riegler, Alexander, Learning Notes in Computer Science, 2004, 2684/2004, 3-12.
The central question in this paper is: Who (or what) constructs anticipations? I challenge the (tacit) assumption of Rosen's standard definition of anticipatory systems according to which the cognitive system actively con-structs a predictive model based on which it carries out anticipations. My arguments show that so-called implicit anticipatory systems are at the root of any other form of anticipatory systems as the nature of the decision maker in the latter cannot be a conscious one.

Dividing Homer: When and How were the Iliad and the Odyssey Divided into Songs?
Rossi, Luigi Enrico. Symbolae Osloenses, 2001, 76 (1).

A Note on the Strange Death of Mydon in Iliad 5
Saunders, Kenneth B. Symbolae Osloenses, 2000, 75 (1).
This note reconsiders the notorious problem of the chariot-driver Mydon, killed by a blow to the head, who falls head first into soft sand and apparently stays standing head down and upright. The nineteenth century theory of cataleptic rigidity is finally disposed of by modern medical considerations. A solution is proposed which involves an alternative sense of ιστημι and a potentially redundant line. If this is thought too aggressive, van Leeuwen's interpretation, not mentioned in recent commentaries, is to be preferred.

Metaphors Concerning Speech in Homer
Wiseman, Rob. In Robert T. Craig and Heidi L. Muller (eds.) Theorizing Communication: Readings Across Traditions, 2007, pgs. 7–18.
"We need to be aware, when looking at Homer, that the conceptual world of the archaic Greek is very different from our own. In particular, there was not really a category for "mental stuff": no words that translate naturally as 'mind', 'thought', thinking', 'idea', or 'concept'. Emotional life is also curiously limited from our perspective. ... "