A contradiction in terms? Perhaps, however, what word would be used otherwise to describe the state of, in a sense,  being aware of being the universe, being aware of its self? And further of that awareness being an influential  factor in a persons behavior?

Or in other words what word to use, to describe someone whose fundamental interpretation of reality, is an active part of their awareness? In non-atheists it is called spirituality, personally I have no problem with atheistic spirituality, it seems to do the job for me; however it could be problematic. I'm curious what other folks here think.


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I've taken a look at some reviews of the book and it sure has gotten some attention from some interesting people.  My primary resistance to the idea results from not being able to put a finger on this bicameral consciousness - it seems rather elusive at the moment.  My second barrier is the apparent lack of a suggested biological mechanism for a conversion from bicamaral consciousness to introspective consciousness.

 

I realize a lot of neurological traits have been hijacked by introspective consciousness, but I find it difficult to conceive of the full capacity having evolved without being pressed to service until some great social trigger occurred.  Furthermore, Jaynes seems to think that writing and language existed before introspection occurred - again very difficult to imagine but perhaps this bicameral divide offers explanation.

 

Ultimately, if the mechanism for triggering a shift from bicameralism to full introspection is not biological, then I must wonder if humans could still be nurtured sans introspection into a bicameral existence today.

Jaynes does have an idea about this, he thinks it was to a thinning of the corpus callosum, if I recall correctly his support for this is marginal at best but, alas we're not likely to be able to get hard evidence as brains do not fossilize. He does make a case for certain types of schizophrenia, and some modern day religious experiences being vestigial bicameralism.He also makes a big deal of the unilateral nature of the language centers of the brain and how this is evidential support for the mechanisms of the bicameral state.

A completely bicameral mind is in no way a conscious mind, absolutely no sense of self, (I believe I mentioned more shocking contents than merely age of the phenomenon), this is one of the most difficult aspects of the hypothesis, mostly because there is absolutely no way we can imagine this. Again in the context of the overall hypothesis* it does make perfect sense, and the entire construct of his argument has solid internal validity. 

I would not attempt to mount an adamant defense of his notions, but I do think they are worthy of consideration. I also very highly recommend the book to anyone with any interest in understanding consciousness, for nearly the first third of the book is devoted to a discussion of consciousness that is superb, largely independent of his theory of origin.

Also there is a very good possibility that the mechanism for modern consciousness being inherently developed in a preconscious brain/mind with only environmental pressures needed to bring it out. That is of course conjectural at this point, but is based on my understanding of the work of Mountcastle and Edelman, in "The Mindful Brain", and the further works of Edelman in his books, "Wider than the Sky", and "The Remembered Present".

*I'm using hypothesis, as I have trouble giving this notion the authority of a theory.

I find this concept of 'no sense of self' rather interesting.  It sounds like Jaynes is greatly departed from almost all cognitive models available.  It is my understanding that all great apes are considered to have a concept of self - the mark test/mirror test.  I can conceive of consciousness without introspection - thought without thought about thought - but no sense of self would suggest absence of even a proto-theory of mind but theory of mind can be revealed in mammals even outside the great apes.  Does he say anything about paleolithic burial rites?

Oneinfinity,

This is one of the what I call "nice ideas" that no matter how appealing, need to be backed by as much evidential information as we can gather. In the case of the Moses of the first five books of the Bible, there are a number of reasons this notion is not the best fit. There are many other accounts of Moses acting in his "prophet of God" mode, and taken all together they don't sound much like this. Six thousand years ago is nothing in terms of evolutionary time, but co-evolutionary forces have by this point begun to exert tremendous selection pressures on gene pools. The evolution of mentality, after the rise of consciousness is a much more accelerated process, so if you look at the time it took for our mentality to even begin addressing the concept of extraterrestrial reality, its unlikely in the extreme that Moses was doing anything other than reporting on the voices and visions that he perceived to be from jaweh. This is also consistent with the behavior of the rest of the old testament prophets. Nevertheless this...."but the only intellectual framework he had to put that experience..." is a very good observation and has a good deal of other applicable ground.

It's actually quite highly unlikely that we are seeing an historical Moses in those books, in my opinion.  Once one realizes the creation mythology is mythology, as well as the flood, well, just where does one decide to shove in a bookmark and say 'starting here it is all literal'. :D
Yes absolutely, but I've learned that arguing the veracity of the biblical account, as far as what people said or didn't say is futile. I am extremely well aware of just how sketchy the argument for original authorship of the various books is. I have found that taking it at face value in discussions though works better in most cases. Besides that the using it that way in debates with Bible believers is extremely powerful, usually the other side is left with a choice, change your mind, or shut up and run away. At least that is since burning at the stake went out of fashion.
And this merits limiting another's reflections on finding personal meaning in one of the stories how?

this reply is to your more recent post, that oddly had no "reply" option at the bottom of it.

I find this concept of 'no sense of self' rather interesting.  It sounds like Jaynes is greatly departed from almost all cognitive models available.  It is my understanding that all great apes are considered to have a concept of self - the mark test/mirror test.  I can conceive of consciousness without introspection - thought without thought about thought - but no sense of self would suggest absence of even a proto-theory of mind but theory of mind can be revealed in mammals even outside the great apes.  Does he say anything about paleolithic burial rites?

Yes Jaynes' hypothesis stands alone, and has not generated much, if any follow-up work, that I know of.  I will have to review his work on burial rites, I recall he had quite a bit to say about them, however I think, if I recall, only in the very late paleolithic, not sure.

We also run into a hallmark difficulty here, definitions, usually when I say consciousness I mean the ability to introspect and the lifetime enduring sense of the personal self, Heatherness, if you will. Strictly speaking any animal that demonstrates purposeful behavior, spawned by some sort of cognition, must have some sort of rudimentary awareness.

In another post you said you had difficulty with the idea of language before consciousness, I am nearly convinced that consciousness without language would be impossible. Try this, think without words, not visualize, nor emote, employ purely thought without words. So far the only two theories I've read that attempt to explain consciousness from the manifestation level, both point to language as a necessary condition.

There is a tricky, and fine, distinction that needs to be made here as well, consciousness is not cognition.  But really I'm getting very far ahead of myself here. There are a few other topics I need to bring up before getting too deep into this one. I would however highly recommend you get a copy of Jaynes book, I think you'd enjoy, at least the first part immensely. I think there is a section here to the effect of "Read Atheist" If so I'll post some more about it there. I checked Amazon they have hard back copies starting at $2.55,here.

I don't buy things online - don't use credit cards.  Anyway I'm rather reticent to invest much time in Jaynes' ideas since they seem to be getting left in the behind by advents in neurology that actually give us a basis for such conjectures.

 

That being said, this all started with your objection to my speculation about my ancient relatives potentially having an identical experience to my own.  Your objections, source material being considered, were unfounded.

 

I never said that it did, in fact I would think that it would be just the oppisite. Also

That being said, this all started with your objection to my speculation about my ancient relatives potentially having an identical experience to my own.  Your objections, source material being considered, were unfounded.

This sounds as if you were offended, I'm sorry if that is so, I never intended such. As well, if you recall I did not completely object, nor say it was completely out of the question that your ancestors had a similar experience, in fact I noted that yours would have been more likely, than one within the Biblical culture of the time. Further to say that my skepticism,(not denial) is unfounded on the basis of my source material, when you are unfamiliar with that source material, is unsupportable. Jaynes'  argument for modern consciousness being relatively recent is actually hard to refute, I am not by any means, as I said, anywhere near asserting that he has it right; however, that there are points to his argument that ought be attended to.

I said as well that the biggest value I found in his book was the first third, and his discussion of the behavioral nature of consciousness, and his characterization of identifiable aspects of it. This aspect of Jaynes' work, is far from being left behind, this type of approach is in fact necessary, without a thorough understanding of the behavior under examination, attempting to identify the physiological underpinnings of it would be futile. My field, when I was formally pursuing it was behavioral neuroscience, I have a fairly good grasp of Edelman's model for the physiological basis for consciousness, and a very good grasp of the neuro-cytoarchitecture upon which it is built.

If that sounds defensive, it is, making an accusation of "unfounded" is a fairly severe attack on a persons scientific ability.  I do not mean any of this as offensive, merely explanitive,  I still appreciate your participation in the discussion.

There is no great deal of offense here, but you've taken a very authoritative role in directing this conversation, going so far as to be dismissive of one of my musings as 'entirely just a nice idea'.

 

Later you stated: 

As far as  the mental experience of people ten thousands years ago goes, there is actually a lot of reason for it to be vastly different than ours.

 

But what you've provided is, quite frankly, nothing more than just a nice idea.  Many people smarter than I have looked into Jaynes' work and I haven't encountered any who stand behind his dating.  It's not as if I've dismissed that dating out of hand.  To suggest that there is 'a lot of reason' to consider his dating, a dating that stands alone with no peer support, is 'unfounded'.

I still don't understand why your posts do not have a reply button, so sorry this is out of place.

But what you've provided is, quite frankly, nothing more than just a nice idea.  Many people smarter than I have looked into Jaynes' work and I haven't encountered any who stand behind his dating.  It's not as if I've dismissed that dating out of hand.  To suggest that there is 'a lot of reason' to consider his dating, a dating that stands alone with no peer support, is 'unfounded'.

In this statement,

"Jaynes'  argument for modern consciousness being relatively recent is actually hard to refute, I am not by any means, as I said, anywhere near asserting that he has it right; however, that there are points to his argument that ought be attended to."

I did not mean to indicate I was standing behind Jaynes dating, only that some of the points within his argument are strong for a "relatively" recent appearance of consciousness. At this point in my understanding though, I do think that it is extremely unlikely that consciousness as i defined it earlier, predates language, and language is a relatively recent phenomenon. By the way if you have any other references for a time-line for the evolution of consciousness I'd certainly be interested in them.

ETA I meant that put it at a prelanguage time point, and offer any evidential support for that.

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