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This is the archive for March 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Those who care may have noticed that I'm reading "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes... and that I've been reading a few others in between. Jaynes' writing is dry and uninspiring, and so the book is quite a slog to get through, but I'm working on it, with frequent breaks for lighter material.

(I just took a literal bucketfull of change to my local grocery store and dumped it into one of those green Coinstar machines. Out popped a ticket redeemable at for the total, with no 8.9% vig taken off as it is if you just redeem the coins for cash, and a half hour after getting back home, I had 13 books on their way to my greedy little hands. Hell of a deal.)

Anyway, many of Jaynes' base assumptions are just whacked - language creates consciousness?! - but I'm finding there's still a lot to learn. Not in the normal way of learning, which to most people's minds is something along the lines of simply being told facts, but in the sense of mapping his flawed premises to valid ones, and then seeing which, if any, of his conclusions map to valid conclusions via the valid premises.

One interesting insight related to the above, is that many of the ancient statues, carvings, etc., show a person and his personal god-voice standing together, with the god-voice on some kind of raised surface, a platform, a hill, a symbolic mountain, etc, and transmitting his knowledge to the person. The offhand comment he made, after observing that the god-voice is standing above the person, and hence the person is standing beneath the god-voice, is that this could be the origin of the term "understanding."

I don't know if this is in fact where the word came from, (the online etymology dictionary disagrees) but it's mighty plausible. If so, it's appalling to think that even today, our term for how we acquire knowledge comes from standing at the feet of some god and simply receiving it.