Discussions with Julian Jaynes: The Nature of Consciousness and the Vagaries of Psychology

Brian J. McVeigh, PhD
Julian Jaynes Society, NV, USA

Series: Psychology Research Progress
BISAC: PSY036000



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In 1976, the late Julian Jaynes of Princeton University published the groundbreaking The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in which he argued that before the twelfth century BC, the minds of individuals were of a different neurocultural organization. Rather than being consciously self-aware as people nowadays think of it, the behavior of our ancient predecessors was governed by religiously-inflected “voices” and visions. These were produced by a “two-chambered” or “bicameral” mentality: language areas in the right hemisphere (the ruler or “god” side) organized advice and admonishments and coded them into hallucinatory experiences that were conveyed over the anterior commissure to the left hemisphere’s corresponding language regions (the follower or “person” side).

Brian J. McVeigh, a student of Julian Jaynes, took the opportunity in 1991 to record a series of informal, wide-ranging, and unstructured discussions with Jaynes, considered a controversial maverick of the psychology world. Weaving their way in and out of the discussions are the following themes: a clarification of the meaning of “consciousness”; the relation between linguistics, consciousness and language study as a crucial method to reveal this relation; the history of psychology and its prejudices (e.g., the marginalization of consciousness as a research topic, ignoring socio-historical aspects of psyche, the significance of religion, the fraudulence of Freudianism, and the overuse, vagueness, and emptiness of “cognitive”); and some practical, therapeutic implications of Jaynes’s ideas on consciousness.

This book will appeal to anyone interested in the emergence of consciousness, language and cognition, cultural psychology, the history of psychology, and the neurocultural transformation of our species. A glossary of names provides useful historical context.
Presenting a series of wide ranging and thought-provoking conversations with Julian Jaynes, who was one of the most insightful and original thinkers of the twentieth century, Discussions with Julian Jaynes constitutes an important contribution to the growing literature on Jaynes and his ideas. (Imprint: Novinka)


Chapter 1. Key Themes of Discussions

Chapter 2. June 2, 1991 Session

Chapter 3. June 5, 1991 Session

Chapter 4. June 7, 1991 Session

Appendix A: Features of Conscious Interiority

Appendix B: Glossary of Names


About the Author


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Written for scholars, researchers, instructors, and anyone interested in what role Julian Jaynes and his theories have played in the history of psychology, and how his thinking has shaped our understanding of consciousness and its relation to history, evolution, language, and religion.

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