Julian Jaynes - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

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Much ado about something.

Feb 21, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:An excellent resource for undergrad or high school studies in psychology and philosophy.

Cons:Hard to read, author is at times haughty, and often boring.

The Bottom Line: Long, hard read, but eventually worthwhile.


Mr. Joyce has managed to take a very interesting subject, and create one of the more accessible books to the common man on the subject. Accessible in the fact that it is available at any Barnes and Noble Bookseller. The simple truth of the matter is that, though The Origin of Consciousness is written on an interesting and lively subject of vibrant discourse amongst the great minds of our past and present, it is written in an obtuse and almost unreadable fashion.

The organization of the book leaves nothing really lacking, the author did stay on topic for the most part. He did relay lots of helpful information. My major concern is can be found in two simple questions. 'Why would any academic study a field he is so dispassionate about?' and 'Why would anyone write a book that clearly shows an author's great love for himself and his own thoughts above those of others.'

You see, Mr. Joyce had no problem, through the course of the book (especially at the beginning) belittling others whose ideas predated or were outside of his own opinion. He also had no problem inferring the lesser validity of the other schools of thought by mocking himself (and indirectly those people who still do hold those theories to be true) for at one time believing these ideas. I found his tone, quite frankly, pompous and offensive at times.

Another serious problem, as I mentioned earlier, is how he seems so entirely without a passion for the subject at hand. He treats consciousness studies as a Christian academic would the practice of Shekhinah (Torah Scroll Reading / Singing). Often times he seems to be going on and on about something that he only is mentioning because he has to. I often wondered in the course of reading this hefty book, if I ever had a chance to see the Author speak, would I attend. I imagined his monotone voice, his eyes slowly rolling over the lowly class of graduate students that would never, in his mind, be as knowledgeable or as quick of wit as himself... By the time I finished this tome I concluded I would not. As filled with new ideas and old information as this book is, I do not think I could bear to read another page, to say nothing about listening to the man preach for hours.

As a few other reviewers mentioned this book is hard to read. More appropriately, it is boring, that is if you don't have an interest in consciousness studies. I do have an interest, and still found myself using it as a bedtime book. You know the kind, the one you keep near you in bed in case insomnia should strike - and it always worked admirably.

On a more positive note. There is a plethora of quotes, and a great structure to references and such throughout the book. This would make an excellent and easily quotable work for any undergrad student of philosophy, consciousness studies, cognitive sciences or psychology.

SKE


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