The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

by Julian Jaynes

Paperback(1ST MARINE)

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At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed our future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618057078
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/15/2000
Edition description: 1ST MARINE
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 115,765
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Julian Jaynes (1923-1997) achieved an almost cult-like reputation for this controversial book, which was his only published work.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Problem of Consciousness1
Book IThe Mind of Man
1.The Consciousness of Consciousness21
3.The Mind of Iliad67
4.The Bicameral Mind84
5.The Double Brain100
6.The Origin of Civilization126
Book IIThe Witness of History
1.Gods, Graves, and Idols149
2.Literate Bicameral Theocracies176
3.The Causes of Consciousness204
4.A Change of Mind in Mesopotamia223
5.The Intellectual Consciousness of Greece255
6.The Moral Consciousness of the Khabiru293
Book IIIVestiges of the Bicameral Mind in the Modern World
1.The Quest for Authorization317
2.Of Prophets and Possession339
3.Of Poetry and Music361
6.The Auguries of Science433

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The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am currently reading this facinating book for the third time. I don't know if Jaynes's hypothesis can ever be proven, but his analysis of human mentality is marvelous. He causes the reader to assess human consciousness, that is our verbal model-making, in a clear and novel way. Jaynes is a gifted writer as well as a brilliant mind and produces a scholarly work that reads like a page turner novel. This book is a trip well worth taking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this a dozen years ago and and am still influenced by it. It is cogent, precise and expansive--a real thrill for the intellect. If you enjoy studying the mind, history, culture and philosophy, this is a stunning find. Couldn't be better!
RobertK3 More than 1 year ago
Quite possibly the most interesting work of non-fiction I've ever read. I recommend this to anybody that has any intellectual curiosity about human history, philosophy, religion and psychology. There's no doubt that I'll read this book more than once.
waitingtoderail on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An absolutely fascinating work. Although there are times where it seems that large trucks can be driven through the holes in his arguments, the overall picture presented makes this quite convincing that Jaynes's theories (particularly the main one, which is that humans only gained consciousness 3,000 - 4,000 years ago, acting only based on voices they heard coming from the right hemisphere of their brains), are worth further study.
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book can be summed up in one word: Wacky. And amusing. It continues to amuse me and a close friend that Princeton has (or had) a professor who argues that prior to 300 or 400 BC, humans had no consciousness, per se, but were automatons directed by otherworldly beings who could speak directions directly into the brains of humans. Hello? Imagine if the Discovery Channel or History Channel had a television show explaining that between the time man originated until Christ, people were robots to voices of some Deity or series of Gods. Considering that our society is reticent--especially with today's college campus academics--to acknowledge anything mystical or not scientifically proven, the fact that this professor is implying that being independent, self-will driven beings is a recent phenomenon is bizarre. The book is similar to Godel, Escher, Bach, for example, in that it ties together a series of genres and topics to weave it's theories. Archaeology, Neuro-linguistics, literature, psychology, etymology, history are all piled together to argue, compellingly, that perhaps we ought to take our historical record at face value and not interpolate into the historical record our own conscious contemporary psychology. The author's skill at calling on these various disciplines makes the book amusing and delightful read as long as the reader can withhold their bewilderment or skepticism at what is being postulated. The author has the chutzpah to write a forceful book that starts by dissecting what metaphors are so they can proceed to use them to describe what a lack of consciousness of self is--amazing. Heavy doses of The Iliad and neurophysiology (be ready to learn about Wernicke's Area in the brain)--where else can you get this all in one place? Do yourself a favor and read this book--it's unlikely a book like this will ever be published again that does not revert to using truly implausible events like crop circles, ancient Mayan civilizations, and Knights of the Templar to prove itself. As a theory, 2 stars. As an amusing wander through the path through history, psychology, Greek Literature, 4 stars.
mbattenberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most daring books on consciousness written! I suspect much of it is now totally outdated (I'll have to re-read it!), but it got me going intellectually, and put consciousness back into the brain.
Valfierno on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very peculiar book. I've read it twice now, and I think it is quite a valuable study, but only with the important disclaimer THIS IS NOT A WORK OF SCIENCE. Origin of Consciousness is fascinating work of erudite speculation. Jaynes proposes and explores the utterly bizarre premise that the rise of what we now call consciousness, or self-awareness arose far later than is usually believed, well after the rise and fall of the earliest civilizations to create permanent works of culture. His evidence comes from paleolinguistics, and archeology, but he draws far too sweeping conclusions from them _if_ we opt to take them seriously. Close readings of the Homer, parts of the Old Testament, etc. provide interesting insights into the collective mind of man, but we should probably take with a grain of salt the claim that Ezekiel is the work of an author essentially suffering (as every other person alive supposedly was) from what we'd now term paranoid schizophrenia.That said, I do think Jaynes is a very smart guy exploring a fascinating topic from a very interesting perspective. As a work of literature it's highly recommended, but as a treatise on human consciousness to be taken as gospel, it's rather not.
glitwack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not saying he was right. I'm just saying the book was awesome.
sailingjonah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If it turned out that Jaynes' masterpiece was completely fiction, in my opinion it would still be a must read. In fact, perhaps it would be more popular, as the reader wouldn't have to face the possibility that Jaynes' theory may be correct, or at least on the right track. In many ways, it reminds me of String Theory in Physics. Both theories are criticized as being untestable, and people generally have a difficult time accepting a theory that seems to drastically differ from the world they're accustomed to. On the other hand, like String Theory, Jaynes' theory of consciousness just explains too much to be completely wrong. If someone decided to write a work of fiction, starting from the premise of Jaynes' theory, the world they invented would likely be very similar to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Middle America, etc.For those wondering what Jaynes' fantastical theory involves, here's a brief description. His theory states that only a few thousand years ago, the natural state of the human mind included frequent auditory hallucinations that directed one's actions. The theory says that after the development of language, the right brain utilized the efficient encoding system to send auditory signals to the left brain, which carried out the actions--a system very similar to modern-day schizophrenics. Jaynes states that these hallucinations were the precursor to our modern conscious mind, our internal dialog that we have with ourselves, for example, when a decision needs to be made. "Should I pick up some milk on my way home, or is there enough to last until tomorrow?" "Should I buy my ticket now, or wait to see if the fares get lower?"In our modern age, some people report hearing a voice that directs their actions when faced with especially stressful situations. The book "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson is an example of this phenomenon and an amazing and inspiring story of survival and human resiliency. If you find Jaynes' book to be a daunting read, I recommend reading Simpson's book first or simultaneously to give you a real-life example of what Jaynes is talking about.
math_foo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finished this book several months ago and have been since attempting to figure out how I would review it.Whether the book's thesis concerning the origin of consciousness is true or not, it presents a compelling and original view of how ancient humans thought. The author readily admits the difficulty in confirming his theory; but I did find what evidence there was to be good.This book has also radically changed my views and extended my understanding of religion.
jbushnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book argues that the inhabitants of early civilizations had no subjective consciousness but rather existed in a state of constant hallucination. Improbable, but Jaynes makes his case with panache. Brings in brain chemistry, Biblical and literary scholarship, and a compelling history of ancient religious practice, idolatry, magic, oracles, and ecstatic states. Fascinating.
Atomicmutant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm just going to chime in and subtitle this for personal purposes, "The Origin of Super Coolness in the Mutant Mind". As others say on this site, I don't know whether to go with this thesis or not, and I do believe it's untestable. But what a weight of circumstantial evidence! Good, lucid writing and an amazing breadth of knowledge goes a long way towards making this SEEM plausible. I just finished reading it, so I really need to do further reading and see what impact, if any, this has had. I suspect strict science has shrugged it's collective shoulders. Normally, that would be enough for me to throw this on the junk pile, but it's too darn compelling and interesting. I may read it again.
hermannstone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It doesn't matter that no one believes this theory (we'll never know anyway); its orginality and fresh view of prehistory makes it eminently worth reading and re-reading.
louie1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incredible theory of the evolution of the brain...Very optumistic veiw of rapid change and evolution
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