Tony Vigorito's "Just a Couple of Day"

Discussion of the influence of Jaynes's theory on works of fiction, film, and in popular culture.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:52 pm

Tony Vigorito's "Just a Couple of Day"

Post by xanthian_kpd »

In (Dr.) Tony Vigorito's 2001 novel Just a Couple of Days, there is a very Jaynesian depiction of the arising of consciousness, in chapter 64. The wordier protagonist has been dosed with a military virus that is about to destroy his capacity to process symbols.

"If a person doesn't have a symbolic capacity, they have no self."

"Why's that?"

"Because the self is social."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that your sense of self emerges by interacting with others. It is born and raised in the process of human communication and interaction [...] In order to communicate, you must be able to evaluate what you are saying from another person's perspective, to be sure you're making sense. The imaginary reflection that your mind creates is your sense of self. In recognizing that you are an object in another person's perception, you become an object in your own. That's just the way it is.

"Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't some deeper Self with a capital S. But that sense of self you are most acquainted with, the phantom of your ego, that self is social. So, as far as your symbolic capacity goes, if this fundamental human ability is undermined, then, ipso facto, your sense of self will dissolve as well. [...] It works like this: You become self-aware, self-conscious, only after you imagine yourself from another's perspective. Think of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they became self-conscious, right? They felt embarrassed and covered themselves. Well the _knowledge_ that particular myth is referring to is our symbolic capacity, our ability to order, categorize, and name objects in our environment, including ourselves. That's what differentiates us from all other animals. Now, why were Adam and Eve embarrassed?"

"Because they were naked?"

"Right. But what I'm trying to say is that they only realized they were naked because they became self-aware. They imagine themselves from each other's perspective and became bashful. You're the most self-conscious when you're embarrassed, see? When you're painfully aware of how others see you. _That's_ the basis of society, _imagining_, not knowing, each other's perspective. Human consciousness is a big game of make-believe. It's nothing more than mutually fanciful speculation, and the self, consequently, is nothing more than a ridiculous illusion at best, and a destructive delusion at worst. We can't _know_ each other's perspective, we only pretend we can. That's why people walk around so terrified of each other most of the time. [...] Do you see what I'm talking about? Right now, I'm trying to evaluate whether or not I'm making sense by imagining how you perceive what I'm saying. Apparently I won't be able to do that much longer."

"So what's going to happen?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you. If my symbolic capacity goes, so does my self-awareness."


That all makes it sound like autistic children, who purportedly lack that capacity to see themselves as other see them, would make a good study subject for Jaynesian theories.

Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:51 pm

Re: Tony Vigorito's "Just a Couple of Days"

Post by shrimperdude »

Are you still reading on the subject; found anything special recently? Like Richard Powers' The Echo Maker? Come back and help us revive this old cow!
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:40 pm

Re: Tony Vigorito's "Just a Couple of Days"

Post by rathacat »

I have an interesting passage in Ratha's Challenge, showing a character transitioning from a bicameral mentality to a more self-aware mode of thought. If you want, I will post it here, or elsewhere and provide a link.

Clare Bell
Author of the Ratha Series
Post Reply

Return to “The Bicameral Mind in Fiction, Film & Popular Culture”