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The Origin of Consciousness

  1. Dec 28, 2004 #1
    I am starting this thread because the other one with regard to consciousness is so long that I doubt I would be able to interject what my researches have found nor do I have time to read through all of it.

    Recently I read a book named The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by one Julian Jaynes. It was very fascinating in the prospectus of accounting for his theory concerning cognitive decision making, the bi-cameral mind, and the evolution of 'consciousness'. He is far from being a 'light-weight' on the subject and was extensively involved with the field of cognitive sciences for quite some time.

    To get a idea of what his theories are I recommend reading the following paper he wrote titled:

    So does anyone have anything to say regarding the proposals of Jaynes and his theories concerning consciousness?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2004 #2
    I read it a good number of years ago and have mentioned a time or two in this forum. As best I can tell my comments went unnoticed by the members and so I decided to bow out from such discussions.
  4. Dec 28, 2004 #3
    I think I can 'see' what you are getting at. There is often a barrel of assumptions that go unmentioned when the topic of consciousness is discussed. I find that often it distracts from formulating a robust understanding of the phenomena.

    Jayne's book, even though it had some speculative shortcomings, brought to the forefront the whole notion of the evolution of human consciousness, cognitive functioning, learning, environment, etc., etc. Personally I found the whole book fascinating and I was unable to put it down.

    Did you read the article?
  5. Dec 28, 2004 #4


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    I haven't read the book so I don't know much about it. But what I have heard about it, and the reason I haven't read it, is that he suggests consciousness is somehow the result of evolution. I'll accept that our recognition of our own consciousness may be the result of evolution, but I can't imagine how a subtle change in the structure of the brain can give rise to such a fundamental, unexplainable property. Either consciousness was always there, and is in all animals to some degree, or it was never there.
  6. Dec 28, 2004 #5
    StatusX, read the article to get a 'weak' form of his proposal, it is only 15 pages. As he states, most people seem to have an idea of consciousness as derived from the likes of the rational enlightenists such as Hume, Kant, etc. He does revise the definition of consciousness that is based on his observations as a cognitive scientist. I think the article will give you insight into what he means.

    As for the subtle change that has resulted in consciousness as we now know it, I think his research strongly suggests that this is what happened. As he points out and I am sure you are well aware of, people at one time literally heard commands from the gods and obeyed them, or something to that effect. This is what he proposes as the bi-cameral mind that at one point in our history was a successful mode of survival. He goes on to say that because of the success of this form of organization/decision making, which resulted in city centers and/or ancient civilizations, eventually broke down due to population stresses, natural catastrophy and the like. Of course it was replaced by a more successful form of problem solving/decision making that he calls consciousness. He cites that what is known as schizophrenia, etc. are remnants of this genetic form of success that has carried over. I think this model for understanding consciousness as well as the unconscious is far more robust as well as it fits into a evolutionary context that this subject seems to be lacking. Remember, when talking about consciousness we are not directly referring to to sense/environment awareness, but something that is very different. Have a look and read the article, it is all in there.

    I can't say that he is completely correct in his assessments but he does seem to make a great stab in that dark room of our ignorance(or more concisely, unconsciousness!).
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