Julian Jaynes

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Julian Jaynes : biography

February 27, 1920 – November 21, 1997

Jaynes’s theory has been influential to philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, psychologists such as Tim Crow and psychiatrists such as Henry Nasrallah. Jaynes’s ideas have also influenced writers such as William S. Burroughs,Burroughs, William S. "Sects and Death." Three Fisted Tales of Bob. Ed. Rev. Ivan Stang. Fireside, 1990. ISBN 0-671-67190-1 Neal Stephenson, Robert J. Sawyer, Philip K. Dick, and Ken Wilber. Jaynes’s theory inspired the investigation of auditory hallucinations by researchers such as psychologist Thomas Posey and clinical psychologist John Hamilton, which ultimately has led to a rethinking of the association of auditory hallucinations and mental illness. Richard Dawkins cited Jaynes’ ideas in his book The God Delusion, stating "It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between …".Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Mariner Books. Jaynes’s theory has been cited in thousands of both scientific and popular books and articles.

In the late 1990s, Jaynes’s ideas received renewed attention as brain imaging technology confirmed many of his early predictions. A 2007 book titled Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited contains several of Jaynes’s essays along with chapters by scholars from a variety of disciplines expanding on his ideas. At the April 2008 "Toward a Science of Consciousness" Conference held in Tucson, Arizona, Marcel Kuijsten (Executive Director and Founder of the Julian Jaynes Society) and Brian J. McVeigh (University of Arizona) hosted a workshop devoted to Jaynesian psychology. At the same conference, a panel devoted to Jaynes was also held, with John Limber (University of New Hampshire), Marcel Kuijsten, John Hainly (Southern University), Scott Greer (University of Prince Edward Island), and Brian J. McVeigh presenting relevant research. At the same conference the philosopher Jan Sleutels (Leiden University) presented on Jaynesian psychology. A 2012 book titled The Julian Jaynes Collection gathers together many of the lectures and articles by Jaynes relevant to his theory (including some that were previously unpublished), along with interviews and question and answer sessions where Jaynes addresses misconceptions about the theory and extends the theory into new areas.

Criticism

Jaynes’s theories on consciousness and the bicameral mind are controversial. An early criticism by philosopher Ned Block argued that Jaynes had confused the emergence of consciousness with the emergence of the concept of consciousness. In other words, according to Block, humans were conscious all along but didn’t have the concept of consciousness and thus did not discuss it in their texts. Daniel Dennett countered that for some things, such as money, baseball, or consciousness, one cannot have the thing without also having the concept of the thing.Daniel Dennett, op. cit., at pp. 127-128 in Brainstorms Moreover, it is arguable that Block misinterpreted the nature of what Jaynes claimed to be a social construction.

Notes

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