I have just finished Julian Jaynes, 'The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind'. It is a tour de force, though not a convincing or rounded theory. Jaynes is important for the idea, not the work: that consciousness, defined as a culturally evolved introspective 'I',as distinct from cognition, developed in response to environmental catastrophe and the creation of writing. One of my first thoughts on this hypothesis is the lack of contemporary evidence: surely we should have seen evidence of this lack of introspection amongst preliterate societies such as the Australian aborigines or Khoi san. There is no evidence that they are not conscious in the sense that we conceive,
Jaynes was an influential force in fostering thought on how culture, language and neurology all reinforce each other. We cannot define how we think without the assumptions embedded in our language and culture: without language and concept, there is no thought.
In recent years, Jaynes has acquired a greater stature. The research programme that he promoted, using scanning technology, has provided evidence for some of his assertions. This does not prove his point but confirms that he was an acute observer and speculative thinker.
His legacy is one of flexibility in thinking about consciousness: an important breakthrough when examining how this could be implemented on other substrates. Whatever