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Thread: Consciousness

  1. #1
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Default Consciousness

    Probably the hottest topic in Psychology is Consciousness.

    We don't know what it is or where it came from. However Julian Jaynes has given us a striking hypothesis in his book, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind".

    "The Origin Of Species", by Charles Darwin together with the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick, gave us Biology.

    But so far, "The Origin Of Consciousness", does not have the corroboration provided by DNA for, "The Origin of Species". So we do not as yet have a discipline of Psychology.

    But it does provide us with a good place to start thinking about Consciousness.

  2. #2
    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    Conciousness is an absolutely puzzling thing. It can often go so far beyond practical survival that I'm almost forced to think of humans as nature's circus freaks, the species gone wild (non-literally, of course), elephantiasis of the brain or something like that.

    To me it's kind of like time... I don't want to know it's origins or it's end, just appreciate the constant flow of it's actuality.

    It's hard to even talk about conciousness because it's so damn mysterious... it's just sort of there. Even if we can dissect how our minds think and work and what we react to, I find it difficult to break down what exactly it is that allows us to do so on such extreme levels. It's fascinating and beautiful and sometimes frustrating!

    Whats Julian Jayne's hypothesis?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GZA View Post
    Whats Julian Jayne's hypothesis?
    It would be a shame to tell you Julian Jayne's hypothesis because the most important thing is reading his book, "The Origin of Consciousness".

    It is a wonderful book but most of all if you read it, your mind will be enlarged. If I merely tell you, you will have a bit of extra information in your mind, but your mind will remain the same.

    And this is what education, learning, is. It is enlarging the mind rather than filling it with information.

    Enlarging the mind is a bit like stretching a muscle - at first it might hurt a little but after a while it is more satisfying.

    And reading Julian Jayne's book is an experience - you might fall in love with the author or you might fall in love with his idea. And after a while you might start to become criical and see the flaws in the book and even in Jayne's himself - at this point you are becoming disenchanted.

    So only if you read the book, you may become enchanted. And only if you become enchanted, is there the possibility of becoming disenchanted.

    And becoming enchanted and disenchanted is a way of eating the book and digesting the book and making it your own.

    If I told you what the book was about, I would be robbing you of this experience.
    Last edited by Mole; 05-25-2008 at 05:14 PM.

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    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    'consciousness' is just a word we made up to describe a specific kind of interaction between trillions of deterministic parts.

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    Wow, someone's a real Jaynes fanboy. You don't need to read his entire book because the idea is very simple - Bicameralism (psychology) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jaynes proposed the theory that about 2,000 ish + years ago, the right side of the human brain was the dominant hemisphere of brain, and somewhere during the course of development the left hemisphere become dominant. The right side of the brain is currently regarded as the "silent" part of the brain: in non-abnormal humans it does absolutely NO language processing or speech generation.

    As support for this theory he cites the endless piles of ancient literature in which people seemed to have an entire different linguistic basis for language generation - for example, authors like Homer never referred to themselves as individuals, and the absense of pronouns like "I" in ancient literature is striking to say the least.

    It's important to note that Jaynes wasn't talking about the Origin of conciousness in general, but rather the TRANSFORMATION conciousness underwent during the course of human evolution. Back then, if God spoke to you and told you to murder your children, you were special, possibly even divine. Nowadays, if God tells you to murder your children, you're insane because the voice of God stopped speaking to most humans - CNN.com - Sheriff: Texas woman says God told her to kill sons - May. 13, 2003

    The only reason I would read his book is to see what he says about this dominant hemisphere relationship and schizophrenia as well as dementia. Not sure if Jaynes touches on that though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nozflubber View Post
    Wow, someone's a real Jaynes fanboy. You don't need to read his entire book because the idea is very simple - Bicameralism (psychology) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jaynes proposed the theory that about 2,000 ish + years ago, the right side of the human brain was the dominant hemisphere of brain, and somewhere during the course of development the left hemisphere become dominant. The right side of the brain is currently regarded as the "silent" part of the brain: in non-abnormal humans it does absolutely NO language processing or speech generation.

    As support for this theory he cites the endless piles of ancient literature in which people seemed to have an entire different linguistic basis for language generation - for example, authors like Homer never referred to themselves as individuals, and the absense of pronouns like "I" in ancient literature is striking to say the least.

    It's important to note that Jaynes wasn't talking about the Origin of conciousness in general, but rather the TRANSFORMATION conciousness underwent during the course of human evolution. Back then, if God spoke to you and told you to murder your children, you were special, possibly even divine. Nowadays, if God tells you to murder your children, you're insane because the voice of God stopped speaking to most humans - CNN.com - Sheriff: Texas woman says God told her to kill sons - May. 13, 2003

    The only reason I would read his book is to see what he says about this dominant hemisphere relationship and schizophrenia as well as dementia. Not sure if Jaynes touches on that though.
    I would say it is important to read his book not because he may be right but because the book is a cultural tour de force.

    It is a cultural experience to read it. An experience that can't be gained from reading Wikipedia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    It would be a shame to tell you Julian Jayne's hypothesis because the most important thing is reading his book, "The Origin of Consciousness".

    It is a wonderful book but most of all if you read it, your mind will be enlarged. If I merely tell you, you will have a bit of extra information in your mind, but your mind will remain the same.

    And this is what education, learning, is. It is enlarging the mind rather than filling it with information.

    Enlarging the mind is a bit like stretching a muscle - at first it might hurt a little but after a while it is more satisfying.

    And reading Julian Jayne's book is an experience - you might fall in love with the author or you might fall in love with his idea. And after a while you might start to become criical and see the flaws in the book and even in Jayne's himself - at this point you are becoming disenchanted.

    So only if you read the book, you may become enchanted. And only if you become enchanted, is there the possibility of becoming disenchanted.

    And becoming enchanted and disenchanted is a way of eating the book and digesting the book and making it your own.

    If I told you what the book was about, I would be robbing you of this experience.
    All true, idealistically. (So i can empathize.)

    But many of us have lives outside of this -- other time commitments.

    Therefore it helps to know the gist of the book and how/why it should be read, so we can prioritize it accordingly.

    Realistically, marketing the product the way you have discourages readership even among those who would have enjoyed and benefited from the title. So while your goal might have been to encourage long-term absorption of the knowledge, it would make more sense to give the info and get 15-20% of the people who hear it to read it on their own... rather than having 0% of people interested by not giving them anything to go with.

    Quote Originally Posted by nozflubber View Post
    Jaynes proposed the theory that about 2,000 ish + years ago, the right side of the human brain was the dominant hemisphere of brain, and somewhere during the course of development the left hemisphere become dominant. The right side of the brain is currently regarded as the "silent" part of the brain: in non-abnormal humans it does absolutely NO language processing or speech generation.
    Yipes. 2000 years? That's, um, not really a lot of time at all, evolutionary-wise, for such a major shift/leap of processing to perpetuate throughout the entire human species. I mean, how could it? At that point the species was already very differentiated. The change would have rippled through a few particular strands, if any, leaving others untouched, or only made it into large populations through a small (not large) shift, which wouldn't have really changed things much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    I would say it is important to read his book not because he may be right but because the book is a cultural tour de force. It is a cultural experience to read it. An experience that can't be gained from reading Wikipedia.
    I think this is an important distinction that should have been made up front. Withholding information / motivations could lead to a lot of people not trusting your recommendations in the future; you need to be clear about why you're promoting a particular product. Because your case from the start seemed to insinuate it was the ideas that were worth exploring ("to open our minds"), not just that the book was an experience to be savored.

    Here's a page that's pro-jaynes but at least it presents some of the arguments in more detail (including the one I raised here), for further exploration and/or challenge.

    Well, the topic will go on my "future exploration" list now that I know about it and have a little bit of an overview. It's interesting but right now I don't know what to make of it. (I don't know if I agree about his assessment of the Bible either, that it doesn't possess "introspection." By the NT, Paul definitely showed a lot of introspection in his style of logical thinking; and in the OT, there are many examples of people who were introspective. (Up front, the Psalms were very introspective, but that's only the tip of the icerberg.) The purpose and style of the writing also has to be taken into account.

    I think I basically do agree that language is necessary for conscious/self-aware thought.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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