Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking.
How Julian Jaynesâ€™ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.
Language needed to exist before what he has defined as consciousness was possible. So he decides to read early texts, including The Iliad andThe Odyssey, to look for signs of people who arenâ€™t capable of introspectionâ€”people who are all sea, no rime. And he believes he sees that in The Iliad. He writes that the characters inThe Iliad do not look inward, and they take no independent initiative. They only do what is suggested by the gods. When something needs to happen, a god appears and speaks. Without these voices, the heroes would stand frozen on the beaches of Troy, like puppets.
By The Odyssey, the characters are capable of something like interior thought, he says. The modern mind, with its internal narrative and longing for direction from a higher power, appear.
And the languageâ€”what language! It has a Nabokovian richness. There is an elegance, power, and believability to his prose. It sounds prophetic. It feels true. And that has incredible weight. Truth and beauty intertwine in ways humans have trouble picking apart.