Picture of author.
3+ Works 2,224 Members 41 Reviews 6 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: Dr. Julian Jaynes (1920 – 1997)

Works by Julian Jaynes

Associated Works

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Jaynes, Julian
Other names
Jaynes, Julian C.
Birthdate
1920-02-27
Date of death
1997-11-21
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Birthplace
West Newton, Massachusetts, USA
Place of death
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Cause of death
stroke
Places of residence
Newton, Massachusetts, USA
England, UK
Keppoch, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Education
McGill University (BA|1944)
Yale University (MA|1948|PhD|1977)
Harvard University
Occupations
author
lecturer (psychology)
actor
playwright
psychologist
Organizations
Julian Jaynes society (http://www.julianjaynes.org/about-jay...)
Princeton University
Yale University
University of Toronto
Awards and honors
Rhode Island College (Honorary Doctorate ∙ 1979)
Elizabethtown College (Honorate Doctorate ∙ 1985)
Wittgenstein Symposium (plenary lecturer ∙ 1984)
Dr. Julian Jaynes Memorial Scholarship in Psychology
Short biography
Born in West Newton, Massachusetts, Julian Jaynes did his undergraduate work at Harvard and McGill and received both his master's and doctoral degrees in psychology from Yale. 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. In addition, he had numerous positions as Visiting Lecturer or Scholar in Residence in departments of philosophy, English, and archeology and in numerous medical schools. Julian Jaynes was an associate editor of the internationally renowned journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences and on the editorial board of the Journal of Mind and Behavior.
Julian Jaynes published widely, his earlier work focusing on the study of animal behavior and ethology, which eventually led him to the study of human consciousness. His more recent work culminated in 1976 in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, a nominee for the National Book Award in 1978. Articles on Jaynes's theory appeared in Time magazine and Psychology Today in 1977. Criticized by some and acclaimed by others as one of the most important books of the 20th century, it remains as controversial today as when it was first published. Expanding on this book are several more recent articles published in a variety of journals such as Canadian Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The History of Ideas, and Art/World.

Members

Reviews

Novelty of idea and style make this a winner.
 
Flagged
themulhern | 40 other reviews | Aug 14, 2022 |
If valid, Jaynes’ theory has far-reaching ramifications.
 
Flagged
AlexanderPatico | 40 other reviews | Jul 20, 2021 |
Here's an idea: what if consciousness - self-awareness, the 'I' and that private inner 'space' it seems to inhabit - is no emergent phenomenon, result of millions of years of brain evolution, but a purely cultural one derived from language, via metaphor, and which didn't appear sometime back in the Pleistocene, but recently (very recently, around 1200 BC in Julian Jaynes' estimation)?
   As ideas go, it's a corker. By that date we were already tilling fields and founding the first cities, the Pyramids had been built and the Iliad written - all by non-conscious human beings according to Jaynes. He was no crank though: graduate of Yale and lecturer at Princeton, the nature of consciousness was the lifelong focus of his work as an ethologist. His theory was presented at a meeting of the American Psychological Society in Washington DC (admittedly to a mostly nonplussed audience) and The Origin of..., published in 1976, was runner-up in the USA's National Book Awards' nonfiction category a couple of years later. His theory rests on the brain's division into two hemispheres: earlier than around 1200 BC, instead of the introspective thinking familiar to us today, the right hemisphere solved problems non-consciously, passing on its instructions to the left where they were experienced as hallucinations (particularly auditory hallucinations) which the people themselves interpreted as the voices of gods. The gods, in other words, seemed entirely real to them and directed their lives; the resulting societies were authoritarian, rigidly stratified and stable, almost like those of social insects (think Ancient Egypt). In the Near East though, around Jaynes' critical date, this 'bicameral' mentality broke down due to demographic (and other) stresses, and was gradually replaced by the self-aware modern mind; the resulting societies, this time, were composed of true individuals.
   This book is in three parts: the first outlines the theory, the second examines the evidence and the third considers possible vestiges of the bicameral mind still around today; and if all this sounds like Velikovsky or von Daniken, well it isn't exactly. In Jaynes' case the most common reaction, from academics in particular, has been a sort of head-scratching bafflement. I think this is at least partly because The Origin is beautifully written - even its trickiest ideas are explained simply, clearly, and in prose which a lot of good fiction writers would envy. What criticism there has been has focused mostly on the extraordinary timescale involved, and on Jaynes' interpretation of the Iliad - and anyone interested in Mesopotamian archaeology, or who knows the Iliad well (or the Old Testament, or the Epic of Gilgamesh) will soon see why.
   I can't help wondering, too, how much of the scepticism is a gut-reaction to Jaynes' choice of the term 'hallucinations' (a word which comes with a lot of baggage: drug use, mental disorder) and the idea of Achilles and Abraham resembling schizophrenics. There's also the presence of the Julian Jaynes Society which issues newsletters and books defending and promoting the theory, but which has precisely the opposite effect (on me at least): it makes the whole thing look a bit cultish, like Scientology. My own scepticism comes from a different direction altogether though: another implication of this theory is that, if true, it would mean that only human beings are conscious - something I don't believe for a minute. Apes, elephants, cetaceans, corvids and perhaps others all show every sign of self-awareness.
   Overall, I'm left with the feeling that this isn't all nonsense, that there's truth lurking at the heart of Jaynes' theory; I thought the first chapter, where he outlines what consciousness is not, what it doesn't do, by far the best - I agreed with every word of that. It's just that, from that starting point, he immediately veered off in a direction very different from the one I would have gone in. It's still, though, as thought-provoking a read as I've come across for some time.
… (more)
1 vote
Flagged
justlurking | 40 other reviews | Jul 4, 2021 |
I've read this once or twice over the years. The theory strikes me as either genius- like really really genius, think Newton and Einstein or Dirac, or utterly compelling hogwash. Not sure we will know until we can compute us up a person!
 
Flagged
frfeni | 40 other reviews | Jan 31, 2021 |

Lists

Awards

You May Also Like

Associated Authors

Statistics

Works
3
Also by
1
Members
2,224
Popularity
#11,523
Rating
4.2
Reviews
41
ISBNs
26
Languages
5
Favorited
6

Charts & Graphs