Tag: Jaynes

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – Quotes from

Conscious retrospection is not the retrieval of images, but the retrieval of what you have been conscious of before, and the reworking of these elements into rational or plausible patterns.

Looking back into memory, then, is a great deal invention, seeing yourself as others see you. Memory is the medium of the must-have-been.

Reasoning and logic are to each other as health is to medicine, or— better— as conduct is to morality. Reasoning refers to a gamut of natural thought processes in the everyday world. Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal— and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth.

The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all.

We imagine ‘ourselves’ ‘doing’ this or that, and thus ‘make’ decisions on the basis of imagined ‘outcomes’ that would be impossible if we did not have an imagined ‘self’ behaving in an imagined ‘world’.

Conscious mind is a spatial analog of the world and mental acts are analogs of bodily acts. Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things. Or, to say it another way with echoes of John Locke, there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first.

Who then were these gods that pushed men about like robots and sang epics through their lips? They were voices whose speech and directions could be as distinctly heard by the Iliadic heroes as voices are heard by certain epileptic and schizophrenic patients, or just as Joan of Arc heard her voices. The gods were organizations of the central nervous system and can be regarded as personae…

… therefore cannot be given the credit or blame for anything that was done over these vast millennia of time; that instead each person had a part of his nervous system which was divine, by which he was ordered about like any slave, a voice or voices which indeed were what we call volition and empowered what they commanded and were related to the hallucinated voices of others in a carefully established hierarchy.

Jaynes, Julian. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

… “the process of judgment itself was never conscious”

A simple experiment, so simple as to seem trivial, will bring us directly to the heart of the matter. Take any two unequal objects, such as a pen and pencil or two unequally filled glasses of water, and place them on the desk in front of you. Then, partly closing your eyes to increase your attention to the task, pick up each one with the thumb and forefinger and judge which is heavier. Now introspect on everything you are doing. You will find yourself conscious of the feel of the objects against the skin of your fingers, conscious of the slight downward pressure as you feel the weight of each, conscious of any protuberances on the sides of the objects, and so forth. And now the actual judging of which is heavier. Where is that? Lo! the very act of judgment that one object is heavier than the other is not conscious. It is somehow just given to you by your nervous system. If we call that process of judgment thinking, we are finding that such thinking is not conscious at all. A simple experiment, yes, but extremely important. It demolishes at once the entire tradition that such thought processes are the structure of the conscious mind.

This type of experiment came to be studied extensively back at the beginning of this century in what came to be known as the Wurzburg School. It all began with a study by Karl Marbe in 1901, which was very similar to the above, except that small weights were used. The subject was asked to lift two weights in front of him, and place the one that was heavier in front of the experimenter, who was facing him. And it came as a startling discovery both to the experimenter himself and to his highly trained subjects, all of them introspective psychologists, that the process of judgment itself was never conscious.

Jaynes, Julian. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind