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Human Consciousness

STAN MULAIK pscccsm at prism.gatech.edu
Sat Jun 3 19:49:57 EST 1995


CHOLSCHR at MAIL.TCD.IE (Christian Holscher) writes:

>In article <D9BnHu.5t6 at murdoch.acc.Virginia.EDU>,
>asa3h at galen.med.Virginia.EDU (Adam S. Arthur) wrote:


> 
>> I find it interesting that several people here (here being the
>> Neuroscience group) are recommending Jayne's "The Origins of
>> Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" I read
>> that and found it to be a lot of fun but completely
>> unbelievable, almost off-the-wall.  I know nothing about how it
>> is regarded in the community.  Is this book really taken
>> seriously?
>> --
>> Adam Arthur           



>Yes, I was thinking the same thing. The whole theory of organisms having
>evolved to nearly modern humans but with seperately finctioning
>hemispheres completely boggles the mind. What do the 'bicamerals' use
>their corpus callosum for? And what about studies with animals, showing
>that higher mammals (primates especially) use their whole brain and full
>potential rather than two independent hemispheres. 
> Most emberassingly, i gave a seminar on split brain patients and a lot of
>people came to me to share their thoughts on that book. If people get
>their information from this kind o literature it is more destructive than
>good.

I have an article out in the current issue of Philosophy of Science titled
"The metaphoric origins of objectivity, subjectivity and consciousness in
the direct perception of reality", which draws heavily on Julian Jaynes'
concept of consciousness as a metaphoric operator, analogous to mathematics,
for dealing with self, life history, "mental" phenomena.  I think this
is his more solid, but less imaginative contribution.  His theory of the
bicameral mind and its breakdown is a marvelous speculation that weaves
together a broad diversity of historical facts and speculations of others
into a fascinating thesis.  Its main value for me is the focus on
consciousness as a historic development in the evolution of language and
the theory of metaphor that he develops.  I also draw upon George Lakoff
and Mark Johnson's works on metaphor, which they regard as not a minor
development of language in contrast to literal language, but rather as
the major way in which language develops.  For them much of our conceptual
development historically has involved metaphoric processes.  They regard
metaphors as ways of coming to understand new experiences in terms of
the more familiar ones involving our direct perceptions of objects in 
space.  Key books by Lakoff and Johnson are "Metaphors We Live By",
Lakoff's "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things," Johnson's "The Body in
The Mind", and Johnson's "Moral Imagination".  Lakoff is a linguist
at the University of California and Johnson is a philosopher, I think
at the University of Southern Illinois.  Lakoff and Johnson believe
most thought develops by the use of metaphors.  Even mathematics is a
kind of tool box of metaphors systematically developed and taken from
perceptual experience.  Now, the point of my article was to popularize
the idea of consciousness as a linguistic development (Jaynes) involving
metaphor and metonym to deal with what today we might call neural events
or "covert behavior" (a metonym where neural events are assimilated to
"behaviors" accompanying them), and to point out that the subjectivity and
objectivity in science are metaphors taken from schemas in perception of
objects where objects are automatically distinguished from changes of
in the perceptual field due to acts of the organism (J. J. Gibson).

Another good book on consciousness is Bernard J. Baars' "A cognitive
theory of consciousness" put out by Cambridge University Press (1988).
Baars regards consciousness differently from Jaynes (but not incompatible
with Jaynes' concept) as a kind of global workspace that allows for
processing of information from other components of the brain and the
sharing of information between these components.  Baars impressed me
very much with the breadth of material and literature that he integrates
with this theory.


-- 
Stanley A. Mulaik 
School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332
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