General discussion regarding Jaynes's theory of consciousness and the bicameral mind. Please only post your topic here only if it does not fit into a more specific category below.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 7:22 pm


Post by bcooney »

One of the many areas in which I am fascinated by Jaynes's work is his cross-disciplinary approach. Instead of being one of those theorists who just borrows irresponsibly from different theoretical models to arrive at some hodge-podge gumbo with no real rigor to it, I feel that Jaynes actually is able to create a theory which can encompass or fit with various pre-existing theoretical worlds.

My training is as a Marxist. While I've always been interested in psychology and philosophy I've been very wary of these fields' lack of historical or materialist basis. Especially in an era where postmodernism is so dominant in the academy, I've been hyper-suspicious of the relativism and cultural reductionism that has crept into so many fields. I have also been suspicious of the reductionism inherent in behaviorism.

When I read Jaynes's book for the first time last year I was struck by the opportunities his theory affords for marrying materialism to psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. The idea that mentality is dependent on social relations, that power structures in society are related to the structure of mentality and language, and the idea that we can only understand mentality historically and socially are all ideas that appeal to me as a historical materialist.

I feel that this is really the most crucial contribution Jaynes makes to history. Yet it needs a lot more fleshing out. He is not explicit about the parameters of his theoretical approach.

I am not at all experienced in the fields of psychology or linguistics. I wonder if there are other scholars who have tried to create a similar meta-theory that can hold materialism, history, psychology etc. within one model. Did Jaynes base this aspect of his theory on prior models? Have other Jaynesian scholars pursued this aspect of this theory?
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 4:01 pm
Location: Wimbledon

Post by Soupdragon »

I'm not sure what you mean by saying that Philosophy lacks any material or historical basis?

I think that Jaynes approach is more philosophical than psychological (behavioural). The study of the 'Philosophy of Mind' necessarily takes a more cross-disciplinary approach. We are still a long way off understanding the nature of consciousness, but Jaynes may well have provided a big step in the right direction, which is refreshing indeed from a psychologist.

I have always had a big problem with Psychology to be honest! I think it is dangerous to extrapolate ad infinitum from hypotheses that are all so very subjective. Karl Popper, perhaps the leading philosopher of science, put Falsifiability forward as a criterion of demarcation between science and non-science, but how much psychobabble is falsifiable? He was also regarded as a leading critic of Marxism, of course.
Post Reply

Return to “General Discussion”