The “Bicameral Mind” 30 Years On: A Critical Reappraisal of Julian Jaynes’ Hypothesis

A.E. Cavanna, M. Trimble, F. Cinti, and F. Monaco, Functional Neurology, 2007, 22, 1, 11-15.

Abstract: In 1976 Julian Jaynes published his controversial book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, introducing the hypothesis of a two-chambered brain-mind model that preceded the evolutionary development of the conscious mind. Jaynes’ speculative model gave rise to a huge debate, which has reverberated throughout the current neuroscientific and neurophilosophical literature. Has the bicameral mind stood the test of time? To answer this question, the present paper adopts a multidisciplinary perspective and, after briefly summarizing Jaynes’ hypothesis, addresses two main critical issues: the neurological basis of the bicameral model and the philological accuracy of Jaynes’ arguments. Finally, the concept of a non-unitary Self is presented as one of the most relevant contemporary legacies of the bicameral mind.

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Critiques and Responses: Part 1