Deafness in Bicameral Societies

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's second hypothesis - that before the development of consciousness, humans operated under a previous mentality called the bicameral mind.
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Deafness in Bicameral Societies

Post by lenny52682 »

In the OC Jaynes writes:

"If our hypothesis is correct, there should first of all be no evidence of individuals set apart as insane prior to the breakdown of the bicameral mind. And this is true, even though it makes an extremely weak case, since the evidence is so indirect. But in sculptures, literature, murals, and other artifacts of the great bicameral civilizations, there is never any depiction or mention of a kind of behavior which marked an individual out as different from others in the way in which insanity does. Idiocy, yes, but madness, no." (p. 405)

It is interesting that Jaynes notes that there was evidence of insanity prior to the breakdown of bicamerality. However, we do know that there were, of course, mentally and physically disabled persons living in that era. I would be interested to know if anyone has encountered evidence of the status of deaf persons in bicameral times. I am not referring to persons who could hear as children but lost their hearing faculties later in life but, rather, those persons who were born deaf. It would seem that such people, because they could not hear, probably did not learn language at all, given that fact that most bicameral societies preceded literacy. If they did not know what language sounded like, and therefore did not learn language, then they would not experience the auditory hallucinations which were so crucial to the functioning of their cultures.

We know that subjective consciousness is contingent upon language and cannot exist without it. In the Dawn of Consciousness, Marcel Kuijsten writes about a case in which Oliver Sacks interviewed an 11 year old deaf child named Joseph who did not acquire any language skills until the critical period for acquiring language had passed. Sacks's description of the child was that he lacked the ability to think abstractly, hypothetically, imagine, reflect, or play. He was very literal and confined to the present moment. While Joseph's mentality was probably non-conscious, I do not think that it could be categorized as bicameral given that there is no evidence, and no conceivable ability, for auditory hallucination. This brings me back to my overall question which is, how would deaf persons have been regarded in bicameral times? Would they have been seen as idiots, insane, or simply cast off from society like lepers?
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Re: Deafness in Bicameral Societies

Post by Moderator »

There's a lot of possibilities. There are studies that indicate that deaf persons today with schizophrenia in some cases have visual hallucinations. But my guess is that in ancient civilizations they did not often survive to adulthood. The earliest known deaf people in ancient history date to the conscious period.
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