Bicameralism and Regality Theory

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's second hypothesis - the bicameral mind, specifically the subtopic of the mentality of preliterate societies, theories of primitive religion, and vestiges of bicameral mind in preliterate societies.
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Bicameralism and Regality Theory

Post by minnespectrum »

I wonder if anyone’s ever done a comparison between Jaynes’ theories and those of Agner Fog, known for his theory of regal and kungic societal structures, or regality theory ( The two theories aren’t necessarily incompatible, as the regality theory has a different focus (namely, the perceived level of external danger or fear, and the accompanying variation in behavior and social organization).

The examples of bicameral societies that Jaynes cited mostly seem to fall towards the regal (or “warlike”/hierarchical) end of the spectrum, as defined by Fog. That being said, there are also plenty of examples of conscious societies that likewise display regal traits (such as the Roman Empire and its successors in medieval and early modern Europe).

The more egalitarian type of society that Agner Fog describes as “kungic” does not seem to be compatible with the bicameral mentality as Jaynes described it, since these societies have relatively little need for the kind of social control that bicamerality provides. That does not imply that all such societies are automatically conscious, though. Indeed, the regal vs. kungic continuum is not even unique to humans, as it is also observed in the contrast between chimps (regal) and bonobos (kungic).

That raises the question of what the mentality of people in a pre-conscious kungic society would have been, and how exactly it would have differed from what Jaynes described as bicamerality. It seems like this would be a very difficult topic to study, though, since many kungic societies (including the !Kung people after whom the term was named) did not necessarily have writing systems prior to contact with Europeans, so historical records from pre-conscious times would be difficult to pin down.
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