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From Ancient Greece to the Present Day: How the Development of the Modern Mind Distanced Us from Genuine Dialogue

Louise Livingstone
The Role, Nature and Difficulties of Dialogue in Transformative Learning (Proceedings), 2016.


This paper explores the development of the modern mind from ancient Greece to the present day, aiming to show how a shift to rationallydevised ways of knowing has contributed to an inability for people in the modern West to see themselves in dynamic relation to, and in genuine dialogue with, each other.


In addition to McGilchrist, there are a number of scholars who speak in favour of a shift in consciousness in ancient Greece - including Jean Gebser, Julian Jaynes and Jean Pierre Vernant. Indeed Gebser sees the ancient Greeks as foundational in the development of what he terms a new 'mental' structure of consciousness, which emerged from the previously 'mythic' structure.

Evidence for a movement from 'mythic' to 'mental' consciousness can be suggested by looking at Homer's epic poems (Iliad and Odyssey: circa 900 – 700 BCE) which had little description of the expressive face (McGilchrist, 2009, p. 283) and which did not appear to show an introspective sense of subjective self-awareness (Jaynes, 2000, p. 69).