The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Category: Philosophy
Author: Julian Jaynes
All Hacker News 8


by kmtrowbr   2022-07-22
It seems crazy to say but I think it may all boil down to a massive influx of inexperienced readers. That plus the fact that most content on on the internet is not to be taken quite at face value.

Counterintuitively I believe there are more people reading and communicating textually than ever before. Way more! That would be good except they are doing it all via the Internet which is an absolute free for all of weaponized content, created for commercial or political purposes.

Critical reading and thinking skills are needed to navigate the internet.


This book is kind of funny: [The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind]( ... but it is good for hypothesizing about how consciousness has evolved. The relevant part to this discussion is when he writes about people literally being driven insane by the birth of writing. They were just unable to integrate the new influx of information quickly enough. Imagine your dog for example, learning to read. It would be quite the experience for poor Fido.

The printing press, in time, caused the reformation, the enlightenment, etc. But it was a bumpy road along the way.

My point is that, everyone having the internet in their pocket will have a larger impact than anyone anticipates today.

by JackFr   2020-08-23
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

by ThomPete   2017-08-19
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

I found it on this list:

Where also the following books some of which I read to (Vehicles is really good) can be found:

The White Goddess - Robert Graves

Graves' grammar of poetic myth works at so many levels at the same time that I can't keep track of them all. This is not a book, this is a neurosis you can borrow. Druidic power to the nerds.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind - Julian Jaynes

Never mind the bulky title. The theory of Jaynes seems preposterous at first: before man was conscious he would not stop and think when making a decision, instead he would literally hear a voice telling him what to do. When life became too complicated this faculty broke down, but not in an instant. Religion is a by-product of this neuro-catastrophe. Jaynes however knows to make use of historic material in such a way that in the course of his argument he becomes plausible! If you don't trust me on this, trust Daniel Dennett.

The Ghost of Chance - William S. Burroughs

Burroughs was a great admirer of Jaynes and here he uses the bicameral image of two dividing brain spheres as a metaphor for the divide between peaceful lemur on Madagascar and the war-mongering chimpanzee on the African mainland as a reminder that human evolution could have taken a better turn.

Ancient Evenings - Norman Mailer

This book, the only lengthy novel in this list, I first looked up because Burroughs referenced it as his inspiration for 'The Western Lands'. When I noticed it starts with my favourite Yeats quote I knew I needed to read this. Even though Burroughs could never have written it like this, at times it is more Burroughs then Burroughs himself. It is the autobiography of a Ka, the lowliest soul of the seven souls of the ancient Egyptians, which makes for unusual reading. Especially because Mailer uses an uncensored version of Egyptian mythology which, to put it mildly, differs from the version you get of it from the National Geographic. The Egyptians practised sex magic with the stamina of a bonobo. Mailer makes Aleister Crowley look like a prudish schoolboy. This is the boldest attempt to recreate a radically different mind from ours that I know of, and does so successfully. The novel as the creation of an artificial consciousness. At the same time it doubles as an All American Novel (yuk).

The Mind in the Cave - David Lewis-Williams

Palaeolithic Psychedelia anyone? Close your eyes, place a finger on both of your eyelids and press gently. What you see is the origin of all art, you only need to look at rock-art with a guide like Lewis-Williams to see it.

The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry - Ernest Fennolosa

Edited by Ezra Pound, the most spectacular misunderstanding of language ever to be reprinted. It reads excellent and it gives us a language (Chinoiserie-Chinese) that does not exist in this world but should exist in a better world.

Vehicles - Valentino Braitenberg

I have read so much stuff relating to Cybernetics, AI, emergent systems and self-organization that I am totally saturated with it. The material itself is exciting but the professional obligation of science to be dull gets on my nerves. But this is an exception, wonderfully written and illustrated with funky little drawings. Vehicles is a tiny book but its size is deceptive. This introduction to synthetic psychology describes a number of simple responsive vehicles that with each new feature became aware of the world around them a good deal more. Each new vehicle is a new mind.

The Coleridge Notebooks.

Charles Lamb said he loved to lend his books to ‘Poet, Metaphysician, Bard’ Coleridge because he would return them with annotations more interesting then the book itself. Samuel Taylor Coleridge had a mind that was free, discursive, unruly and truly original. His notebooks record the flow of his thoughts as if you are sitting next to him. Every now and then I dip into this and always come out with some gem I never saw before. Get the Seamus Perry edition of this. Get a copy of the Road to Xanadu by Livingstone-Lowes for extra enjoyment.

by hellbanner   2017-08-19
Great point. Humans growing up without others we call "feral"

Have you read Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral mind? A psychologist analyzes historical signs of "consciousness", like the transition in the Ilyad of men's motivations shifting from parts of their bodies & god puppeters to their "will".

One of his interesting conclusions is that schizophrenic voices were these connections, or in hackerspeak, daemons or programs running. With so many programs competing for attention at once, the "consciousness" program was formed to "decide" how to spend its newly alloted attention.

Peter Watts, marine biologist, explores this in his Firefall series (fiction) - the idea of consciousness arising out of conflict. It fits nicely with the folk wisdom that in "Flow", there is no sense of self. : Origins of Consciousness : Sci-fi featuring Consciousness as conflict as a central theme

.. why do I feel like this exact discussion has been repeated on HN before? Like different neurons of the HN-brain are running across this idea of "automatic decision making" and sending it up to the neo-cortex (front page), again, and again..

by anigbrowl   2017-08-19
A speculative work which may shed some light on this phenomenon is Julian Jaynes' The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind - and well-summarized at - although the abstract does not even come close to the experience of reading Jaynes' book.

I am disappointed at the dismissive comments; perhaps those skimming he article failed to note Taylor's comment that 'religion is a story the left brain tells the right brain', and that she is capable enough to teach neuroanatomy at Indiana University's medical school - if she is not up to or interested in performing as much academic research, she has hardly become an anti-scientist.

It's quite possible to be a good materialist and still enjoy a spiritual dimension to life without evoking immaterial agencies or phenomena to do so; the different cerebration that seems to take place in the subordinate (usually right) hemisphere doesn't indicate less 'processing power' or 'buggy software'; it just processes incoming information differently, and the idea that there is nothing worthwhile to be learned this way is arguably foolish.

Indeed, there's a faulty syllogism at work here: Scatterbrained mystics make unscientific claims about the right brain. Taylor makes positive reports of improved mental state, following a temporary, documented inhibition of her left hemisphere. Therefore, Taylor is a scatterbrained mystic whose claims are unscientific.

I don't see Taylor making any claims about immaterial causes or phenomena, either in this article or on her website, any more than the literature of Zen does, or any of the serious research into psychotropic drugs.