Julian Jaynes

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Julian Jaynes

Julian Jaynes (February 27, 1920November 21, 1997) was an American psychologist, best known for his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976), in which he argued that ancient peoples did not access consciousness (did not possess an introspective mind-space), but instead had their behavior directed by auditory hallucinations, which they interpreted as the voice of their chief, king, or the gods. Jaynes argued that the change from this mode of thinking (which he called the bicameral mind) to consciousness (construed as self-identification of interior mental states) occurred over a period of centuries about three thousand years ago and was based on the development of metaphorical language and the emergence of writing.


[edit] Life

Jaynes was born in West Newton, Massachusetts and attended Harvard University. He was an undergraduate at McGill University and afterwards received master's and doctorate degrees from Yale University. He was mentored by Frank Beach and was a close friend of Edwin G. Boring. During this time period Jaynes made significant contributions in the fields of animal behavior and ethology. After Yale, Jaynes spent several years in England working as an actor and playwright. Jaynes later returned to the states, and lectured in psychology at Princeton University from 1966 to 1990, teaching a popular class on consciousness for much of that time. He was in high demand as a lecturer, and was frequently invited to lecture at conferences and as a guest lecturer at other universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, Dalhousie, Wellesley, Florida State, the Universities of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Prince Edward Island, and Massachusetts at Amherst and Boston Harbor. In 1984 he was invited to give the plenary lecture at the Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchburg, Austria. He gave six major lectures in 1985 and nine in 1986. He was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by Rhode Island College in 1979 and another from Elizabethtown College in 1985. [1]

[edit] Criticism

Jaynes's theories on consciousness and the bicameral mind proved highly controversial. An early criticism by philosopher Ned Block argued that Jaynes had confused the emergence of consciousness with the emergence of the concept of consciousness. In other words, according to Block, humans were conscious all along but didn't have the concept of consciousness and thus did not discuss it in their texts. Jaynes and Daniel Dennett countered that for some things, such as money, baseball, or consciousness, one cannot have the thing without also having the concept of the thing.[2] Block's arguments have more recently been meticulously countered by the Dutch philosopher Jan Sleutels.[3]

At the time of publication of The Origin of Consciousness, Jaynes was criticized for publishing with a trade publisher and not submitting the work for peer review. The book was, however, reviewed by a number of prominent academics prior to publication, including Stanford psychologist Ernest Hilgard, psychologist Isodor Chein, an anonymous anthropologist, and several others.[4] It was a successful work of popular science, selling out the first print run before a second could replace it. The book was a nominee for the National Book Award in 1978, and received dozens of positive book reviews, including those by well-known critics such as John Updike in The New Yorker, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times, and Marshall McLuhan in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Articles on Jaynes's theory appeared in Time[5] magazine and Psychology Today[6] in 1977. Jaynes later expanded on the ideas in his book in a series of commentaries in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, in lectures and discussions published in Canadian Psychology, and in Art/World. He wrote an extensive Afterword for the 1990 edition of his book, in which he expanded on his theory and addressed some of the criticisms. More than 30 years later, Jaynes's book is still in print.

Other prominent writers and scientists whose works were influenced or affected by Jaynes's theories include Daniel Dennett, William S. Burroughs,[7] Neal Stephenson, Steven Pinker, and Ken Wilbur. Jaynes's theory inspired the investigation of auditory hallucinations by researchers such as psychologist Thomas Posey[8] and clinical psychologist John Hamilton[9], which ultimately has led to a rethinking of the association of auditory hallucinations and mental illness. Jaynes's theory has been cited in hundreds of scientific and popular books.

Jaynes's ideas have recently received renewed attention as brain imaging technology confirmed some of his early predictions.[10] [11]. A new book was released titled Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited which contains several of Jaynes's essays along with chapters by scholars from a variety of disciplines expanding on his ideas.[12] At the April 2008 "Toward a Science of Consciousness" Conference held in Tucson, Arizona, Marcel Kuijsten (Executive Director and Founder of the Julian Jaynes Society) and Brian J. McVeigh (University of Arizona) hosted a workshop devoted to Jaynesian psychology. At the same conference, a panel devoted to Jaynes was also held, with John Limber (University of New Hampshire), Marcel Kuijsten, John Hainly (Southern University), Scott Greer (University of Prince Edward Island), and Brian J. McVeigh presenting relevant research. At the same conference the philosopher Jan Sleutels (Leiden University) presented on Jaynesian psychology.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. pgs. 13–68. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1. 
  2. ^ Dennett, Daniel (1986). "Julian Jaynes's Software Archeology". Canadian Psychology 27 (2). 
  3. ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. pp. pgs. 303-335. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1}. 
  4. ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. pgs. 40–43. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1. 
  5. ^ Leo, John (1977). "The Lost Voices of the Gods". Time 14. 
  6. ^ Keen, Sam (November 1977). "Julian Jaynes: Portrait of the Psychologist as a Maverick Theorizer". Psychology Today 11. 
  7. ^ Burroughs, William S. "Sects and Death." Three Fisted Tales of Bob. Ed. Rev. Ivan Stang. Fireside, 1990. ISBN 0-671-67190-1
  8. ^ Posey, Thomas (1983). "Auditory Hallucinations of Hearing Voices in 375 Normal Subjects". Imagination, Cognition, and Personality 3. 
  9. ^ Hamilton, John (1988). "Auditory Hallucinations in Nonverbal Quadriplegics". Psychiatry 48. 
  10. ^ Olin, Robert (1999). "Auditory Hallcinations and the Bicameral Mind". Lancet 354 (9173): 166. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)75304-6. 
  11. ^ Sher, Leo (2000). "Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind". Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience 25 (3). 
  12. ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1. 

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