“The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, is a book title ambitious enough to be suspect just on the face of its book cover. But what is philosophy if not over-ambitious science? The tragedy of Julian Jaynes maybe is that science has become nothing more than under-ambitious philosophy. His conjecture was one of Darwinian proportions: we are all schizophrenics who have learned to trust the voice()s in our heads to be our own. He then traveled the seven seas of ancient history to demonstrate how our forefathers, up to 1000 BC, literally heard the voices of Gods instructing them to write the books on which our society is still largely built. As a scientist he was looking for corroborating facts and he found them everywhere: in ancient texts and neurological neologisms like “bicameral”. By the time the book had made instant fame it was already infamous. Everybody debunked it, starting with the left/right brain hemisphere specialization underlying “bicameral” which as a scientific theory was as short lived as it is enduring in popular psychology books. Then historians picked the references of this psychologist self-taught as historian of all ancient cultures apart. D. Dennett and R. Dawkins quietly left the room of vocal supporters of the Jaynesian thesis and that was that. My plea is simple: don’t judge a book by its cover. Read beyond mere skepticism of the facts to discover the ambition of a true work of philosophy. You’ll discover inspiring beauty of thought. Enough said.
“Anomalous monism resembles materialism in its claim that all events are physical, but rejects the thesis that mental phenomena can be given purely physical explanations.” D. Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events, Clarendon Press, 2001, p. 214.
The lack of clarity in philosophy of mind is a lack of clarity of its terms. That lack of clarity of terms is, in its turn, nothing else than a lack of terms. There was a time the discussion was about mind/body dualism whilst most recent scientific writing is, implicitly at least, based on the identity of brain and mind. It’s all a blur and no matter how many tokens of supervenience or emergency types are exchanged, it remains a blur of bodies, minds and brains. The classical solution to this lack of terms is to index terms like consciousness1 or prefix them with an adjective like ‘basic’ mind or some such. This is then a temporary definition just good enough to make a local argument without risking to enter into holistic arguments. Good for publishing but bad for discussion.
I have always thought that Davidson’s anomalous monism was a basis for getting out of this black hole of terminological unclarity. It has the strength of common sense: there are no extra-natural things but mental descriptions of natural things aren’t something purely physically determined either. The thing is this: anomalous monism of what? Of the mental and the physical, sure, but what about the brain and its mind.
Let me repeat that: what about the brain and ‘its‘ mind? That the mind is ‘of’ the brain would not startle many if I had not also italicized it (and – to play it safe – put it in scare quotes too). Well, if the mind is of the brain I think we don’t have enough anomalousness and still too much monism. Since the mental indeed doesn’t allow itself to be reduced to the physical, this leads to minds1 and minds2 and hence right back into the muddy waters of going mental at or talking past each other.
So I made a picture to try to put the mind right back where it belongs: very much outside the brain. So far out that the mind does not have a location at all, which seems to me rather in tune with the anomalousness of the mental.
Here goes the not so short explanation: Continue reading
Posted in Davidson
Tagged autism, cultural optimism, Darwin, Davidson, Dawkins, Gibson, identity, Julian Jaynes, Levinas, mind-mind dualism, quadrialectics, schizophrenia, self, tones, Un PoCo PoMo
If you append a capital B to your first name and that first name is Jo, then the people around you are most probably in for some drama. What could I do? It is the only really entertaining biblical story and my surname happens to begin with a B. At least I left it capitalized, after all it is not like I am going to repent or something. I may be old but not as old as that (story).
I started out with a lot of luck. I was born in the West in a middle class family. This was followed with more luck. My brain turned out to work above average allowing me to graduate into a ‘top job’. After that came, well, more luck. A beautiful girl asked me out (or as we say in Flemish: on). It soon turned out most of her beauty actually was on the inside. Enter the drama, you think, but no, unless you call three adorable children drama. The first two were boy and girl so everybody in Spain called them a ‘king’s couple’ which was kind of on the mark as I certainly behaved a lot like a drama queen.
Rich, check. Smart, check. Happily married, check. Healthy and brainy children with lots of swag, check. If God were still alive, I’d be in for some real trouble. Fortunately Nietzsche checked his pulse for us, and found nothing. As it stands the only trouble I’ll be in is with the kids, associating them in such a non-swag way to being swag. They’ll forgive me because as corny as I may be, their parents stuck together and not just for them which is a double exception to their friends’ parents.
So here we went on our merry way making not one career but two, Continue reading
Mind is made of words. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
I am made of your words and so are you now made of some of mine.
Chemistry and electricity give the mind a body. It is not the other way around.
When are we born? When do we die? These are the most questionable of questions.
The body is connected to the mind. The body is man or woman. The mind, it has the choice.
I can doubt all this because words are made up all the time. Words are never in time.
Bodies are time-bound. We can make them hell like birds making our own cages.
‘My words to your words, my mind to your mind’, is just what we are.
We cannot die, as long as we don’t try to fly. Only time flies.
Is this mysterious hogwash? It is less mysterious than the hogwash that sees mind in all matter. In essence the common fight of communism and capitalism is a fight against words, a fight for what matters. Capitalism merely is more cunning at it, discrediting words as just words, whilst crediting money as all that matters. The economy of minds gets modeled on animal biology, survival as the only test of fitness. That’s hogwash as well. Economics is not a mysterious form of exact science; it is a human science, a social science and only a derivative one at that. Poetry is first.
“The difference between the social and individual theories of the development of mind, self, and the social process of experience or behavior is analogous to the difference between the evolutionary and contract theories of the state as held in the past by both rationalists and empiricists. The latter theory takes individuals and individual experiencing – individual minds and selves – as logically prior to the social process in which they are involved, and explains the existence of that social process in terms of them; whereas the former takes the social process of experience or behavior as logically prior to the individuals and their individual experiencing which are involved in it, and explains their existence in terms of that social process. But the latter type of theory cannot explain that which is taken as logically prior at all, cannot explain the existence of minds and selves; whereas the former type of theory can explain that which it takes as logically prior, namely, the existence of the social process of behavior, in terms of such fundamental biological or physiological relations and interactions as reproduction, co-operation of individuals for mutual protection or for the securing of food.”
George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, The University of Chicago Press, 1977, p. 242.
I wanted to edit and shorten this but I didn’t. In fact, I needed to battle the urge to go on quoting the next page. It is what it needs to be: the sober discovery of an inescapable truth we could not but evolve to discover. Nevertheless, evolution works in mysterious ways; after half a century the fact is that the traditional (and false) position still prevails. Whatever.
But if the mind is not born with the body and the social not the deliverance of the individual, then death of body and cessation of individuality is not co-extensive, at least not necessarily so, with the termination of mind, socially speaking. Yes, I am talking here about the commonplace notion that one lives on in one’s works – albeit without the usual understanding of ‘one’, ‘living’ and ‘works’.
“The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind.”
Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind., Mariner Books, 1990, p. 446.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 11-02-2010. Between this and Kyburg at least the author list is complete.]
There you have it in one quote: all of the beauty and most of the folly of one of the most original thinkers of the XXth century – a scientist that did some good philosophizing but presented it as a bad scientific hypothesis. A thinker lost in the Quine-Duhem-Davidson triangle of changing too much concepts at the same time to be taken seriously by anybody because – in the end – everybody has one concept that is so near and dear to her or his heart that it’s a little bit too holy to be touched.
The prime example being: a naïve concept of truth. The type of truth that settles things, once and for all. Continue reading
“Das so konstituierte Psychische des Anderen wird als Klasse der ‘psychischen Zustände des Anderen’ analog ‘meiner Seele’ ‘die Seele des Anderen’ genannt. Das allgemeine Gebiet des ‘Fremdpsychischen’ umfasst des Psychische aller der anderen Menschen die (d.h. deren Leiber) als physische Dinge in der konstituierten physikalischen Welt vorkommen.
Aus der angegebenen Art der Konstitution des Fremdpsychischen folgt: es gibt kein Fremdpsychisches ohne Leib. (..)”,
R. Carnap, Der logische Aufbau der Welt, p. 187, Meiner Philosophische Bibliothek, 1998.
[Amateuristic English translation: “The so constituted psychical (mental) of the others being the class of ‘psychical (or mental) states of the other’ is called, in analogy with ‘my soul’, ‘the soul of the other’. The general field of the other-mental (or other-mindly or other-psychical) includes the psychical (or mental &c) of all other humans, who (i.e. whose bodies) appear as physical things in the constituted physical world.
From the indicated way in which the other-mindly is constituted, it follows that there is no other mind without a corresponding body.”
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 28-11-2009. A long one but one that gives the most concrete connection to what I think could be my philosophy, see Eigenpsychisches & Fremdpsychisches.]
I’m struggling with the demons of the mystical. What better weapon to take to such a fight than ‘Der logische Aufbau’? If I’m defeated, at least I will not be enshrined, & my bones scattered over the globe abused by the rich and powerful to instill just enough hope in the poor and powerless for them not to question their status quo, but not so much hope that they would resist being mobilized by the ruling classes, to fight the ruling class fights under the guise of fighting for this or that demon of the mystical (which are always readily available when the people in power need them).
But enough of this left wing propaganda. On topic. Quick!
The afterlife. Continue reading