[percy-l] consciousness, Julian Jaynes, and Percy

RHONDA MCDONNELL rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com
Thu Jul 6 14:19:47 EDT 2006

He may have chuckled at Jaynes's theory, but he didn't rule him out 
entirely. He references him in this passage:

A few years ago, [language development] was thought to have begun to happen 
with Homo erectus perhaps a million years ago. Now, as Julian Jaynes at 
Princeton, among others, believes, it appears to have occurred in 
Neanderthal man as recently as the fourth glaciation, which lasted from 
about 75,000 to 35,000 years ago. During this same period, especially around 
40,000 years ago, there occurred an explosive increase in the use and 
variety of new tools. The human brain increased in weight about fifty-four 
percent, much of this increase occurring in the cortex, especially in those 
areas around the Sylvan fissure implicated in the perception and production 
of speech. These are new structures, not present or else extremely 
rudimentary in even the highest apes. Moreover, recent experiments have 
shown that if one destroys this cortical region in other primates, it has no 
effect on vocalization, which is mediated not by a cortical but rather by 
the limbic system. (SIASL 118-119)

So, while Jaynes's theories about the changes to the human brain between the 
writing of THE ILLIAD and THE ODDESSY might have been too extravagent (do I 
remember Jaynes correctly--I read it in the haze of dissertation research), 
Percy did think Jaynes was onto something.

. . . what people really fear is not that the bomb will fall but that the 
bomb will not fall . . .
                               --Walker Percy

>From: "Karey Perkins" <karey at kareyperkins.com>
>Reply-To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" 
><percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
>To: "'Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion'" 
><percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Subject: [percy-l] consciousness, Julian Jaynes, and Percy
>Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2006 23:55:40 -0400
>I am reading Julian Jaynes's  The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown
>of the Bicameral Mind, C 1976, 1990.  He discusses the evolution of
>1)  Did Percy read Jaynes?  If so, his opinion?
>2)  How might he have responded, in your opinion, if he had read him?
>3)  Did Jaynes know of Percy?  He does cite Peirce, ever so briefly, but 
>Percy, Langer, or Cassirer.
>4)  What is the general consensus of the mind-body and/or semiotic 
>on Jaynes?
>5)  Has anyone on the list read Jaynes?
>6)  How does Jaynes' thoughts stand up today? (16 years after last 
>7)  What do you think of Jaynes?  What is the value of his book/thoughts?
>8)  Any other thoughts?
>I do remember Mike Frentz differentiating between the more scientific
>approaches to semiotics/consciousness and the more humanistic approaches,
>with Jaynes in the former camp and Percy in the latter.. I've heard this
>book is an important one -

>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy

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