Notes on ‘Reflections on the dawn of consciousness’

Title: Reflections on the dawn of consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory revisited
Author: Various, edited by Marcel Kuijsten
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kuijsten ed - relections

When this book came out in 2006, it was the first full-length book on Jaynes since his book, ‘The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind,’ was published 30 years earlier. It’s a little uneven in terms of insight. And for a fan like me, who’s rather versed in the main points of the theory, it gets tiring to be given a summary of Jaynes’ main points with each chapter (although the different phrasings used to expound it may be helpful in grasping each author’s unique interpretation).

Marcel Kuijsten, the book’s editor, contributes an article as well, where, among other things, he dismisses the notion that representational paintings from cavemen involved consciousness:
If a 3-year-old autistic child with no language ability and incapable of abstract thought can create drawings such as Nadia’s, citing the cave art of 30,000 years ago as evidence of the emergence of the modern mind becomes highly problematic.
– Location 1862-1863

Kuijsten points out how the emergence of consciousness may be yet ongoing.
Vestiges of the bicameral mind — our longing for absolute guidance and external control — make us susceptible to charismatic leaders, cults, trends, and persuasive rhetoric that relies on slogans to bypass logic.
– Location 2212-2213

Brian McVeigh, another well-known Jaynes scholar speaks in an intentionally crude manner when he says:
[S]ocial life is a matter of controlling or being controlled.
– Location 3465-3466
I myself believe that what we see as social control has been changing to a matter of social cooperation, as facilitated by conscious action.

Explaining further, McVeigh says:
[W]hen one is not being oneself — e.g., acting, lying, deceiving — the subject (“I”) and object (“me”) aspects of self are separated because the former is carefully monitoring and managing the latter.
– Location 3498-3499
The ‘I-me’ relationship is social in origin and social in operation: as between two people, the ‘I’ controls/commands/communicates with the ‘me.’
– Location 3503-3504

It is easy to take our consciousness for granted as present in beings that share common physical and mental traits. Jan Sleutels says:
[O]ur incorrigibly intuitive knowledge of consciousness is necessarily restricted to present consciousness without revealing anything about the earlier history of the mind.
– Location 5212-5213

For anyone whose understanding of the world has been shaken by Jaynes’ original book, there are some great articles in this collection that cite developments post-‘The origin of consciousness,’ specifically John Hamilton’s report on a select group of hallucinating modern-day quadriplegics, Michael Carr’s presentation of bicameral behavior in Ancient China, and Scott Greer’s enumeration of things Aristotle said that made an impact on the writing of Jaynes’ book.

For more notes on books I’ve read, visit
Buy ‘Reflections on the dawn of consciousness’ on Amazon, here.
This document is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Notes on Neil Gaiman’s ‘The view from the cheap seats’

Title: The view from the cheap seats: Selected nonfiction
Author: Neil Gaiman
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gaiman - view

When I was 14, Neil Gaiman became the first author whom I idolized, for his work on ‘The sandman.’ He sparked my early interest in Shakespeare and mythologies, and is responsible for countless happy days of my youth. I have been rather remiss in keeping up with his work over the past decade, but I knew I’d get a lot from reading this collection of his nonfiction, some of which I’d read previously.

In ‘The pornography of genre, or the genre of pornography,’ Gaiman points out how a lack of preconceptions can stimulate creativity:
I suspect I’m at my most successful and ambitious and foolish and wise as a writer when I have no idea what sort of thing it is that I’m writing. When I don’t know what a lover of things like this would expect, because nobody’s ever loved anything like this before: when for good or for evil, I’m out there on my own. And at that point, when I only have myself as a first reader, then genre, or lack thereof, becomes immaterial.
– Location 1036-1040 (Amazon Kindle version)

The following phenomenon can happen in a span of a couple of years, and applies to other forms of art as well:
What makes a book an adult book is, sometimes, that it depicts a world that’s only comprehensible if you are an adult yourself. Often the adult book is not for you, not yet, or will only be for you when you’re ready. But sometimes you will read it anyway, and you will take from it whatever you can. Then, perhaps, you will come back to it when you’re older, and you will find the book has changed because you have changed as well, and the book is wiser, or more foolish, because you are wiser or more foolish than you were as a child.
– Location 1628-1632

Not having to be liked is enormously liberating.
– Location 3407-3408

I heard a similar sentiment in Joe Rogan’s podcast episode with Henry Rollins:
I learned early on that most of the people at the top of their professions—and I’m not talking about comics here, I’m talking about everything—were the nicest people, easy to deal with, and with little side to them. And I also learned that the people who were most insistent on having VIP status, on making a loud noise about everything—the kind of people who would actually say things like “Do you know who I am?”—were the second-division talents, the ones who hadn’t made it, the ones who never would.
– Location 3731-3734

[M]ost interesting art gets made by people who don’t know the rules, and have no idea that certain things simply aren’t done.
– Location 4498-4499

The Moth, as their website says, is about people going up on stage to tell true stories. Here is Neil’s take on it:
The strange thing about Moth stories is that none of the tricks we use to make ourselves loved or respected by others work in the ways you would imagine they ought to. The tales of how clever we were, how wise, how we won, they mostly fail. The practiced jokes and the witty one-liners all crash and burn up on a Moth stage.
– Location 5637-5639

From Gaiman’s article on the Syrian war:
I realize I have stopped thinking about political divides, about freedom fighters or terrorists, about dictators and armies. I am thinking only of the fragility of civilization.

For more notes on books I’ve read, visit
Buy Neil Gaiman’s ‘The view from the cheap seats’ on Amazon, here.
This document is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.