Scott Alexander: Book Review: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind https://slatestarcodex.com/: ‘Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is a brilliant book, with only two minor flaws. First, that it purports to explains the origin of consciousness. And second, that it posits a breakdown of the bicameral mind. I think it’s possible to route around these flaws while keeping the thesis otherwise intact. So I’m going to start by reviewing a slightly different book, the one Jaynes should have written. Then I’ll talk about the more dubious one he actually wrote. My hypothetical Jaynes 2.0 is a book about theory-of-mind.... When in human history did theory-of-mind first arise? It couldn’t have been a single invention–more like a gradual process of refinement. “The unconscious” only really entered our theory-of-mind with Freud. Statements like “my abuse gave me a lot of baggage that I’m still working through” involves a theory-of-mind that would have been incomprehensible a few centuries ago. It’s like “I’m clicking on an icon with my mouse”–every individual word would have made sense, but the gestalt would be nonsensical. Still, everyone always assumes that the absolute basics–mind as a metaphorical space containing beliefs and emotions, people having thoughts and making decisions – must go back so far that their origins are lost in the mists of time, attributable only to nameless ape-men. Julian Jaynes doesn’t think that. He thinks it comes from the Bronze Age Near East, c. 1500–750 BC… #books #cognition #noted #2020-06-03
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