Jaynesian psychology can be distilled down to two major claims. First, until about three millennia ago individual behavior was governed by a different neurocultural arrangement called bicamerality: the right hemisphere generated audiovisual hallucinations interpreted as supernatural visitations (ancestors, chiefs, gods) that governed the left hemisphere (the “mortal” side). But bicamerality was no match for social transformations—expanding demographics, more complex political economic systems, mass migration, and technological innovations such as writing and bronze and ironworking. This brings us to Jaynes’s second claim. What he called consciousness, or subjective introspectable self-awareness, replaced bicamerality. This cognitive upgrade was a cultural invention, not a bioevolutionary development.
Like crowning towers built upon lower tiers and structures, Jaynes’s two claims rest on a number of interlocking theories that deserve attention. This is because unfortunately, reviewers commentators, and critics often fail to see the subtlety of Jaynes’s arguments. Even critiques that are sympathetic to Jaynes’s claims often miss the nuances and richness of his theorizing, so it is worth exploring some of the chambers making up Jaynes’s intellectual edifice. …