Consciousness & Language

After studying consciousness for many years, Julian Jaynes realized that language is necessary for introspective consciousness, and he describes the process by which metaphorical language creates an inner “mind-space.” Many others consciousness theorists now agree with the idea that introspective consciousness is based on language. Below is a small sample of research relevant to this aspect of Jaynes’s theory.

Articles

Books

Language, Thought and Consciousness: An Essay in Philosophical Psychology

Language, Thought and Consciousness: An Essay in Philosophical Psychology
Carruthers, Peter (The MIT Press, 1986)
Do we think in natural language? Or is language only for communication? Much recent work in philosophy and cognitive science assumes the latter. In contrast, Peter Carruthers argues that much of human conscious thinking is conducted in the medium of natural language sentences. However, this does not commit him to any sort of Whorfian linguistic relativism, and the view is developed wit hin a framework that is broadly nativist and modularist. His study will be essential reading for all those interested in the nature and significance of natural language, whether they come from philosophy, psychology or linguistics.

Kinds Of Minds

Kinds Of Minds
Dennett, Daniel (Basic Books, 1997)
Combining ideas from philosophy, artificial intelligence, and neurobiology, Daniel Dennett leads the reader on a fascinating journey of inquiry, exploring such intriguing possibilities as: Can any of us really know what is going on in someone else’s mind? What distinguishes the human mind from the minds of animals, especially those capable of complex behavior? If such animals, for instance, were magically given the power of language, would their communities evolve an intelligence as subtly discriminating as ours? Will robots, once they have been endowed with sensory systems like those that provide us with experience, ever exhibit the particular traits long thought to distinguish the human mind, including the ability to think about thinking? …

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size
Norretranders, Tor (Viking Books, 1999)
This groundbreaking work by Denmark’s leading science writer draws on psychology, evolutionary biology, information theory, and other disciplines to argue its revolutionary point: that consciousness represents only an infinitesimal fraction of our ability to process information. Although we are unaware of it, our brains sift through and discard billions of pieces of data in order to allow us to understand the world around us. In fact, most of what we call thought is actually the unconscious discarding of information. …
Chapter 12, “The Origin of Consciousness” discusses Julian Jaynes’s theory.

Thought and Language

Thought and Language
Vygotsky, Lev (The MIT Press, 1986)
Since it was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1962, Lev Vygotsky’s highly original exploration of human mental development has become recognized as a classic foundational work of cognitive science. Vygotsky analyzes the relationship between words and consciousness, arguing that speech is social in its origins and that only as children develop does it become internalized verbal thought. …