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Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (2006)

by Marcel Kuijsten (Editor)

Other authors: Scott Greer (Contributor), John Hamilton (Contributor), Julian Jaynes (Author), Brian J McVeigh (Contributor)

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Showing 4 of 4
This isn't a sequel to, but a book about, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, published by the Julian Jaynes Society and consisting of essays (some by Jaynes himself), and a short biography. Contrary to what some reviewers have written, if you were to read this one first I think it would give you a half-decent overview of Jaynes' theory of consciousness.
   What you won't get though is any idea of how well written the original is - there's some fairly turgid stuff in this one. The exception is an essay which sticks out a mile from the rest: The Oracles and their Cessation by David Stove, about the origin and existence of religion, is written in a style so lively and clear it's worth borrowing the book just to read it. ( )
  justlurking | Jul 4, 2021 |
Reflections on Julian Jaynes "Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" edited by Marcel Kuijsten and the Julian Jaynes Society ( http://www.julianjaynes.org ).

Includes personal reminiscences of Jaynes, four of Jaynes articles, and an update on Jaynes 1976 work.

Essential if you are fascinated by Jaynes' theories in OCBBM. ( )
1 vote bodhisattva | Jul 2, 2010 |
"In this book Marcel Kuijsten and his colleagues have integrated a quintessential collection of original thoughts concerning Jaynes's concepts as well as some of Jaynes's original essays. I have rarely read a manuscript that so eloquently and elegantly examines a complex and pervasive phenomenon. The contributors of this volume have integrated the concepts of psychology, anthropology, archaeology, theology, philosophy, the history of science, and modern neuroscience with such clarity it should be considered an essential text for any student of human experience." -- From the Foreword by Dr. Michael A. Persinger, Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences Program, Laurentian University

"... Offers insights into otherwise inexplicable aspects concerning the pharaoh Tutankhamun and dragon-motifs in Shang China ... Jaynes' theory merits in my view the reassessment by the scientific community urged in this volume." -- Ilkka Kallio, Helsinki, Finland, in the Journal of Consciousness Studies

"New ideas that shake up the status of human beings relative to their world have never gone down easily, from Galileo to Darwin to Jaynes. Yet, over the past three decades, a dozen or so scholars have gambled their reputations on the possibility that Jaynes may be right. Gathered in this volume, their research provides hard data in support of Jaynes's claims. ... Such information holds the power to restore mystery and wonder to the world we thought we knew." -- Julie Kane, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Language & Communication, Northwestern State University

"Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness is ... an accessible re-introduction to Julian Jaynes, whose wondrous and wonderful The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind first brought to public awareness the 'invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries ... the introcosm' that is consciousness." -- Richard M. Restak, M.D., Clinical Professor of Neurology, George Washington Hospital University, School of Medicine and Health Sciences

"An indispensible resource for ideas on consciousness, religion, and theory of ancient civilizations. Includes various authors including some important but lesser known articles by Julian Jaynes himself. Interdisciplinary, insightful, provocative, in the original spirit of Jaynes' seminal work, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, but goes well beyond mere support and evidence of that work. Contains profuse notes and bibliographies for each article." -- John Hainly, Dept. of Philosophy, Southern University

"Blending biography with analytical and critical discussions and evaluations, this volume presents a rounded picture of Jaynes as an individual and scholar, while not shrinking from controversial and difficult issues." -- Klaus J. Hansen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Dept. of History, Queen's University, Ontario

"A book which ... after 30 years and in light of new research and ideas, introduces again Jaynes's theory to a scientific world that, now, may be ready to accept it." -- Roberto Bottini, Department of Human Sciences, University of Bergamo, Italy

"Gathering together both additional writings by Jaynes himself, along with thoughtful essays by scholars from a wide range of disciplines, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness both explores ways in which Jaynes's thought can be applied in specific fields of study and serves as a testimony to the centrality of the issue of consciousness to all fields of intellectual endeavor." -- Ted Remington, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, The University of Saint Francis

"Anyone who has read Jaynes’s book should read Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness for a greater appreciation of the work. Whether one agrees in whole or part, it is a testament to Jaynes’s research and work that this collection of essays in Reflections either agrees with him in total or does not find a great deal to dispute concerning his theories. In the thirty years since Origin was released a great deal of research has in the main proven the man to be remarkably prescient." -- John Holt, California Literary Review ( )
  mkuijsten | Oct 6, 2009 |
In the seventies a largely unknown Princeton academic by the name of Julian Jaynes published a book with the most leaden title imaginable: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It was, and is, an extraordinary book, which playfully announces an utterly preposterous premise: that human beings acquired consciousness less than 3000 years ago, that it was a cultural rather than a physiological development, and this cultural acquisition either led to, or was prompted by, a deterioration in the previously prevailing human mental configuration which, in a nutshell, involved hallucinating gods out of the effigies of fallen leaders and was, more or less, schizophrenic in nature. You read that right: human civilisation got past the point of the Iliad courtesy of imaginary voices.

Having announced that absurd premise, Jaynes' book then impishly, wittily, elegantly but always compellingly, set out to justify it and, while it did not revolutionise the fields on which it expressed opinions (and there were many, including anthropology, psychiatry, linguistics, epistemology, biology and philosophy) - which is what it would have needed to do to gain widespread acceptance - Julian Jaynes' outrageous theory has proved surprising elusive of its critics. Only philosopher Ned Block has had a really good go at it, and the consensus is that his efforts have largely been in vain.

Thus, and against all odds, Jaynes' theory hangs on, long after its progenitor's passing, and still attracts the odd furtive glance from the establishment: Dan Dennett gave admiring if qualified support, and Richard Dawkins was at least sufficiently moved to mention it in his The God Delusion, even if by all appearances he hadn't really read or thought about it in any great detail.

Jaynes' book is interesting not only in its own right, but also because it is such a fantastic example of the operation of scientific paradigms in the sense identified by Thomas Kuhn. Jaynes isn't properly credentialised at all - he was never tenured and only received his Ph.D. late in life and apparently only then almost by accident - and his theory flies in the face of the accumulated wisdom of so many unrelated research programmes that it is no wonder it has never been taken entirely seriously. Note that, pace Karl Popper, nor has it been humiliatingly dismantled or falsified - it has, for the most part, been quietly ignored, the traditions that it challenges not being particularly "in crisis"; the questions which Jaynes answers so much more convincingly (why did the ancients bury their dead with food and possessions? Why did they have such a visceral, apparently delusional, affection to gods? What made the ancients believe they were engaging in conversations with beings who weren't there?) are ones which the prevailing paradigms simply don't feel the need to ask, or are happy to cast off with a shrug of the shoulders. (Dawkins: religious people are simply deluded: Jaynes: as a matter of fact, back in the day this may have literally been the case).

Again, Jaynes' failure to attract attention - to not even get an audience - is what Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions suggests tends to happen when an internally robust theory is challenged from outright left field in such a way.

So, especially now he's dead, we can expect Jaynes' book and the small fame he acquired to wither on the vine - but not if Marcel Kuijsten has any say in the matter. Kuijsten's an enthusiastic adherent of Jaynes' and is doing what he can in this present volume to keep the flame alive. He's retrieved a few odds and sods from Jaynes' unpublished papers and has invited a few like-minded souls to contribute further thoughts on the implications of Jaynes' work, particularly in light of subsequently published neurological research which Kuijsten tells us (without a lot of detail) supports and confirms Jaynes' theories.

Kuijsten has a delicate balance to trike: on one hand he needs to bolster the delicate superstructure of the theory by setting a solid platform of academically robust support for it; on the other, to avoid seeing sycophantic and credulous he needs to subject the theory to constructive criticism, but without making it look like an obvious lemon.

The trouble is he manages neither. Jaynes' own pieces are short and largely restate material already put more elegantly in the original book. The new third-party material he's got doesn't really develop Jaynes' work,and the more thoughtful pieces tend to be the most equivocal about Jaynes' theory, and are yet riven with qualifications and distracted by irrelevant reservations about the theory itself. Missing are new contributions from the very two world renowned academics who have previously expressed views: Dennett and Block.

In a nutshell, if you haven't read the Jaynes' original, you definitely should; until you do this book won't be much use to you; if you have, I'm not sure this collection will get you a whole lot further down the track.

For completists only. ( )
5 vote JollyContrarian | Jul 7, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
"Anyone who has read Jaynes’s book should read Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness for a greater appreciation of the work. Whether one agrees in whole or part, it is a testament to Jaynes’s research and work that this collection of essays in Reflections either agrees with him in total or does not find a great deal to dispute concerning his theories. In the thirty years since Origin was released a great deal of research has in the main proven the man to be remarkably prescient."
 
"... Offers insights into otherwise inexplicable aspects concerning the pharaoh Tutankhamun and dragon-motifs in Shang China ... Jaynes' theory merits in my view the reassessment by the scientific community urged in this volume."
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kuijsten, MarcelEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greer, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hamilton, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jaynes, JulianAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McVeigh, Brian JContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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