The Unmentionable Part [Bicameral Mind & Natural Selection]

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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The Unmentionable Part [Bicameral Mind & Natural Selection]

Post by ignosympathnoramus »

So the idea that wars, genocide, and various forms of selection winnowed down the genes underlying the bicameral mind seems to be the part of Jaynes' theory that he was most skeptical of and certainly the one that Jaynes enthusiasts are least likely to discuss. The idea was conspicuous by its absence at last years conference. I don't see why it is so wildly implausible, especially given our current knowledge of epigenetics. Is it just that it seems like too much of a deus ex machina? (i.e. "I assure you that most of everyone was bicameral back then, but much of the evidence is gone because they were all exterminated.")

Here, Jaynes and this idea are mentioned in the 2006 "What's Your Dangerous Idea":

I can see where it would have been highly desirable for certain kings to round up and slaughter all the Nabiim, and so forth, as well as the advantages of killing off the neighboring tribe's priests after conquering them. However, when I try to think this through, the difficulty that I immediately run into is that a person that is more Bicameral genetically should be easier to control, right? They should be more submissive and suggestible. We have known for some time how easy it is to breed submissiveness and/or adolescence into a population of, say, foxes. We have lots of experience with domesticating animals like this, and yet the human is a species that domesticated ITSELF! There are certainly genetic influences on personality traits like dominance/submissiveness:

So doesn't it stand to reason that when the general bicameral paradigm became unsupportable due the mixing of cultures, writing, etc, that rule with an iron fist became necessary, the person that stuck his head up above the crowd got it lopped off, and you get a genetically more submissive population? Again, the problem I run into is that this seems to be a selective pressure in favor of the genes underlying bicameralism. In deed, in other posts of mine on this forum I suggested the Milgram and Stanford Prisoner experiments as demonstrating a vestige of bicamerality: our suggestibility, unthinking adoption of roles assigned to us by authorities, etc. Perhaps I am simply in error to associate submissiveness with bicamerality — after all, Achilles was bicameral and anything but submissive.

I guess its really Spiegel and "Trance and Treatment" that is confusing me. (btw Spiegel admitted to me in a personal communication that Jaynes was a strong influence on he and his father's work). He shows that highly suggestible, hypnotisable people ("Dionysians"): "adopted a naive posture of trust in relation to many if not all people in their environment; were prone to suspend critical judgement...demonstrated a telescoping of their sense of time so that their focus was almost exclusively on the present...a tendency to employ extreme trance logic....relatively comfortable with logical incongruity...showed a fixed personality core of beliefs which was relatively nonnegotiable even though these individuals were in other ways very compliant." The highly Dionysian (score of 5 on HIP) is only about 5% of our population, yet they would seem to be the easiest to control. Perhaps this too is a faulty assumption: perhaps its the rule-bound, conservative thinkers, the Appolonians, who were a more stable and controllable group. Perhaps control via group hypnosis was just too unreliable after the breakdown and it was easier to control Appolonians with fear and rules than employ any plausible religious authority to hypnotize the masses. Then the unthinking rule-follower would be more submissive while the more malleable Dionysians would prove too unpredictable, vacillating, and permeable to new ideas and viewpoints. In fact, I might be making a big error in associating highly suggestible people with bicamerialism, as Spiegel and others have shown that psychotics CANNOT be hypnotized and that hypnosis is a special form of intense concentration, a conscious skill, instead of the ablation of deep focus.

Anyway, I'd love to hear anybody's thoughts on this rather tricky matter. Cheers!
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