Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes’s Theory



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Hardcover Edition

How old is consciousness? What is the relationship of consciousness and language? What is the origin of god beliefs and religion? Why do people hear voices that command their behavior? These are just a few of the fascinating questions posed by Princeton University psychologist Julian Jaynes’s influential and controversial theory and discussed in this book. A treasure trove of provocative ideas, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind explains, extends, clarifies, and presents the latest evidence for Jaynes’s theory in a series of highly engaging interviews with both voice-hearers and leading thinkers on the theory.

1st Julian Jaynes Society Hardcover Edition
August 22, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7373055-3-8
376 pages

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Advanced Praise for Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind:

“Julian Jaynes was my teacher in the early 1960s. … Much psychological science since then points to the possibility that he was right. Right about consciousness, right about ancient history, right about evolution, right about language, even right about Homer. This volume begins to close the gap, bringing Jaynes’s brilliance to the attention and appreciation of the contemporary public.”
Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Hope Circuit and Learned Optimism

“… A marvel of collective scholarship across multiple disciplines. … In this book, you will hear the voices of the most open-minded scholars of our generation.”
— William R. Woodward, Professor of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, and author of Hermann Lotze: An Intellectual Biography

“Rich with ideas and fertile speculations, this outstanding collection of expert interviews advances the revolutionary work of the psychologist Julian Jaynes.”
— Richard Rhodes, Historian and Pulitzer Prize Laureate for The Making of the Atomic Bomb

“… It is time for a new generation of … deep thinkers at the heart of every discipline to rediscover Julian Jaynes’s tantalizing hypotheses concerning the origin and nature of human consciousness. This collection of interviews … will enable contemporary readers to understand why Jaynes’s style of inquiry remains as captivating and compelling as ever — and as provocative and controversial. Reader: take the plunge, and join the conversation!”
— Christian Y. Dupont, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian for Collections and Burns Librarian, Boston College, and author of Phenomenology in French Philosophy: Early Encounters

“… Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind helps us understand humanity’s development of consciousness over millennia, as well as how we learn it in our first years of life.”
Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., author of Habits of a Happy Brain, The Science of Positivity, and Status Games

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Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind is also available via special order wherever books are sold, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (product flyer with table of contents)

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Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
Highly thought provoking

Highly thought provoking and enjoyable interviews on Julian Jaynes' ground breaking theory, covering everything from the cultural origins of self-consciousness in ancient history to the many modern-day implications, such as the origin of hearing voices and mental illness. Five stars!

Gian Anello
Excellent update of current thinking

Love the added clarification and update of current thinking on Jaynes master work. Thanks!

Philip P. Ardery
Boosted my Learning

In the 1990 edition of "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind," Julian Jaynes added an Afterword to make explicit that his book advances four main hypotheses. In 2022's "Conversations on Conversations and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes's Theory," editor Marcel Kuijsten, founder and executive director of the Julian Jaynes Society, has arranged 22 interviews into four sections, each section keying on one of "Origins's" hypotheses.

"Conversations" enables any reader to get deeper insight into Jaynes's work and its impacts, and also into Kuijsten. Kuijsten has spent the last 25 years building the Society and recruiting to it a growing number of recognized scientists whose support is finally drawing mainstream attention to Jaynes's highly original ideas -- ideas that overturn long-held beliefs about human history and the human mind.

I'll keep this review short by diving into only one of the book's sections, "Bicameral Mentality." Kuijsten writes, "Bicameral people lacked an inner mind-space to introspect, so in stressful or non-habitual situations they would hear a commanding voice instructing their behavior." In this section of "Conversations", contributor Brendan Leahy interviews Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme, whose work began what now has grown into an immense and influential globe-spanning Hearing Voices Movement. It was after a voice-hearing patient persuaded Romme to read ORIGIN that Romme discarded the prevailing medical view that voice hearing is a pathology and recognized voice hearing as a basic human capacity rich in meanings.

"Conversations" does more than advocate and promote Jaynes's ideas and document their widening influence. The book's "Bicameral Mentality" section concludes with Kuijsten interviewing partial skeptic John Kihlstrom, emeritus cognitive social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley. Kihlstrom tells Kuijsten, "I accept two and a half of Jaynes's four hypotheses," and the respectful sparring of these two thinkers over 30+ pages yields many sharp insights and rich food for reflection.

In the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer wants it known that he has membership in the Julian Jaynes Society and previously reviewed one other Kuijsten book on Amazon.

Patricia P.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning about Julian Jaynes' fascinating ideas. The book is filled with a great deal of interesting insights, stimulating observations, and clarifications and extensions of the theory. Many if not all of my lingering questions were answered, and the wide range of new evidence supporting Jaynes' theory is compelling. Dividing Jaynes' theory into four parts makes it much easier to understand, and the dialogic style is novel and keeps the reader highly engaged.

Patrick Garner
Excellent addition

Nicely edited, timely, compelling read. Easy 5 stars.