Harvard Symposium on Julian Jaynes’s Theory

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, December 2-3, 1988

In December of 1988, a symposium on Julian Jaynes’s theory was organized by Robert Carl Smith at Harvard University over two days.

Speakers included:

Friday, December 2:

Robert Carl Smith (Philosophy of Religion, and lecturer at College of New Jersey, Iowa State University) – Day 1 Introduction to Julian Jaynes’s Theory

Julian Jaynes (Princeton University) – Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind

Daniel Dennett (Philosophy Professor, Tufts University) – Commentary on consciousness and Jaynes’s theory

Ray Jackendoff (Linguist and philosphy professor, Brandeis University) – Linguistics & Consciousness

Michael Witzel (Philologist, comparative mythologist and Indologist, Harvard University) – The History of Language

Russell Seitz (Historian, Harvard University) – Indigenous People of Papua New Guinea and the Evolution of Language

Saturday, December 3:

Robert Carl Smith – Day 2 Introduction

Julian Jaynes – Jaynes presents a review of his theory from Day 1 and then speaks on “The Consequences of Consciousness,” including on consciousness and the perception of time, his two-tiered theory of emotions, and more.

Question and Answer Session with Julian Jaynes

Follow-up commentary on Jaynes’s theory by:

William (Bill) Weifenbach (Philosophy Professor, Dean of Graduate Studies, Union College, Schenectady NY) – Follow up comments suggesting Jaynes’s theory is one of the most important theories in the history of ideas; the variablity of consciousness between cultures; the decline of consciousness during the Dark Ages; the difficulties with accurately translating ancient texts; consciousness and religion; he describes working on a follow-up book on consciousness, which apparently was not completed.

F. Hadi Madjid (Physicist, Concord, MA) – Comments on consciousness, concepts, and communication; ancedotes of non-conscious problem solving by the mathematician and theoretical physicist Henri Poincaré; consciousness and art.

Rev. Donald Mackenzie, Jr. (Church Pastor in Hanover, NH) – Speaks on his interpretation of the implications of Jaynes’s theory for religion.

William “Bill” J. Culp (Biochemist, Dean of Research at Dartmouth College) – Relates highly favorable thoughts on Jaynes’s theory; discusses the nature of the self and the differences between our inner self and our public persona.

Willard Van Orman Quine (Philosophy professor, Harvard University) – Remarks on Jaynes’s terminology for the parts of metaphor; the utopian longing for a long bicameral age; agreement with Jaynes’s definition of consciousness as introspection; what would it feel like to be bicameral?; the possible relevance of Eric Havelock’s work.

Robert Carl Smith – Concluding remarks.

(Talk titles are rough approximations based on audio recordings.)