Friday, 15 December 2017

Julian Jaynes and Self-Awareness

Here is the problem with Julian Jaynes Origins of Consciousness. He maintains there existed a time when humans were conscious but not reflexively so. They did not have that subjective awareness which has implicit in it the knowledge that one is aware that one is aware. There was no sense of that supervenient ‘I’ that can allow to examine our consciousness. Is that possible? Isn’t that self known with every state of awareness? What could block it? Memory establishes the knowledge that I was here before and that this place is familiar. Would we be able to use this continuity without reflecting on it. How would the ordinary experience of being mistaken about the position of things happen without a comparison.

Jaynes’s reliance on the Iliad and the consciousness of the warrior who does not take thought but acts out of his training and established virtue begs the question. The hero’s ‘arete’ is simply to fight, to engage his valour, his thumos, in a righteous cause. The counsel of Krishna to Arjuna who is dithering and unable to act is likewise to follow his dharma which is to be a warrior and engage an unrighteous enemy even if some of them are relations and respected elders. Excessive reflexion leads to a fall from dharma in the case of the Kshatriya. The spirit of a warrior is no indication of a general state of consciousness.


john doyle said...

Have you watched the Westworld TV series, Michael?

ombhurbhuva said...

I watched a little of it but A.I. is unconvincing as a theme for a show because of its innate limitations. When they go awry there is no tragedy in that, its a mechanical failure merely. We have no feeling that they are evil. Here maladjustment is the correct word. ‘Back to the shop with you’.

About Jaynes: Is he epistemology’s Von Daniken?

john doyle said...

Certainly the Westworld take on Jaynes is Von Danikenesque, inasmuch as the AIs' creators are the ones speaking to them in their godvoice hemispheres. Not surprisingly, Westworld over the course of season one traces a Pygmalion-Frankenstein humanization of the AIs, in which they transcend their sapience with self-awareness. It's a kind of cool move to invoke bicameral mind logic in the show, which is based on a movie that originally came out around the time that Jaynes was formulating his theory.