E-mail Address:

| | | | | | |

Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Goodreads

< Book Reviews

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Book Review)

Charles M. Fair
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, January 1980, 16: 89-98.


In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes has given us an odd and difficult task. The ground it covers is enormous. It draws on evidence from history, neurology, archeology, literature, and comparative studies of religion. "What we need," Jaynes says, "is a paleontology of consciousness." (p. 216); and that is what he undertakes to give us.

The first fifteen percent of the book concerns the problem of consciousness. The author rules out various definitions - of consciousness as a stage on which we assemble our thoughts, as an all-seeing eye monitoring our motor functions, as the focus at which learning takes place - and concludes by offering his own definion. Consciounsess is

an operation rather than a thing, a repository, or a function. It operates by way of constructing an analog space with an analog 'I' that can observe that space ... Conscious mind is a spatial analog of the world and mental acts are analogs of bodily acts. Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things ... there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first. (p. 65)