The Psychology and Anthropology of Consciousness

“There is in my opinion no tenable argument against the hypothesis that psychic functions which today seem conscious to us were once unconscious and yet worked as if they were conscious. We could also say that all the psychic phenomena to be found in man were already present in the natural unconscious state. To this it might be objected that it would then be far from clear why there is such a thing as consciousness at all.”
~ Carl Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche 

An intriguing thought by Jung. Many have considered this possibility. It leads to questions about what is consciousness and what purpose it serves. A recent exploration of this is the User Illusion by Tor Nørretranders, in which the author proposes that consciousness doesn’t determine what we do but chooses what we don’t do, the final vote before action is taken, but action itself requires no consciousness. As such, consciousness is useful and advantageous, just not absolutely necessary. It keeps you from eating that second cookie or saying something cruel.

Another related perspective is that of Julian Jaynes’ bicameral mind theory. I say related because Jaynes influenced Nørretranders. About Jung, Jaynes was aware of his writings and stated disagreement with some ideas: “Jung had many insights indeed, but the idea of the collective unconscious and of the archetypes has always seemed to me to be based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics, a notion not accepted by biologists or psychologists today” (quoted by Philip Ardery in “Ramifications of Julian Jaynes’s theory of consciousness for traditional general semantics“), although to be fair to Jung he didn’t so much argue for the “inheritance of acquired characteristics” but rather the inheritance of the possibility of acquired characteristics, a fundamental and important distinction about which Daniel Everett also wrongly interpreted — as Jung put it, “It is not, therefore, a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas” (What is the Blank Slate of the Mind?). What these three thinkers agree about is that the unconscious mind is much more expansive and capable, more primary and important than is normally assumed. There is so much more to our humanity than the limits of interiorized self-awareness.

What interested me was the anthropological angle. Here is something I wrote earlier:

“Julian Jaynes had written about the comparison of shame and guilt cultures. He was influenced in by E. R. Dodds. Combined with the earlier philological work of Bruno Snell, Dodds in turn based some of his own thinking about the Greeks on the work of Ruth Benedict. She originated the shame and guilt culture comparison in her writings on Japan and the United States. Benedict, like Margaret Mead, had been taught by Franz Boas. Boas developed some of the early anthropological thinking that saw societies as distinct cultures.”

Boas founded a school of thought about the primacy of culture, the first major challenge to race realism and eugenics. He gave the anthropology field new direction and inspired a generation of anthropologists.This was the same era during which Jung was formulating his own views.

As with Jung before him, Jaynes drew upon the work of anthropologists. Both also influenced anthropologists, but Jung’s influence of course came earlier. Even though some of these early anthropologists were wary of Jungian psychology, such as archetypes and collective unconscious, they saw personality typology as a revolutionary framework (those influenced also included the likes of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, both having been mentors of Boas who maybe was the source of introducing linguistic relativism into American thought). Through personality types, it was possible to begin understanding what fundamentally made one mind different from another, a necessary factor in distinguishing one culture from another.

In Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology, Sonu Shamdasani describes this meeting of minds (Kindle Locations 4706-4718):

“The impact of Jung’s typology on Ruth Benedict may be found in her concept of Apollonian and Dionysian culture patterns which she first put forward in 1928 in “Psychological Types in the cultures of the Southwest,” west,” and subsequently elaborated in Patterns of Culture. Mead recalled that their conversations on this topic had in part been shaped by Sapir and Oldenweiser’s discussion of Jung’s typology in Toronto in 1924 as well as by Seligman’s article cited above (1959, 207). In Patterns of Culture, ture, Benedict discussed Wilhelm Worringer’s typification of empathy and abstraction, Oswald Spengler’s of the Apollonian and the Faustian and Friedrich Nietzsche’s of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Conspicuously, ously, she failed to cite Jung explicitly, though while criticizing Spengler, she noted that “It is quite as convincing to characterize our cultural type as thoroughly extravert … as it is to characterize it as Faustian” (1934, 54-55). One gets the impression that Benedict was attempting to distance herself from Jung, despite drawing some inspiration from his Psychological Types.

“In her autobiography, Mead recalls that in the period that led up to her Sex and Temperament, she had a great deal of discussion with Gregory Bateson concerning the possibility that aside from sex difference, there were other types of innate differences which “cut across sex lines” (1973, 216). She stated that: “In my own thinking I drew on the work of Jung, especially his fourfold scheme for grouping human beings as psychological ical types, each related to the others in a complementary way” (217). Yet in her published work, Mead omitted to cite Jung’s work. A possible explanation for the absence of citation of Jung by Benedict and Mead, despite the influence of his typological model, was that they were developing oping diametrically opposed concepts of culture and its relation to the personality to Jung’s. Ironically, it is arguably through such indirect and half-acknowledged conduits that Jung’s work came to have its greatest impact upon modern anthropology and concepts of culture. This short account of some anthropological responses to Jung may serve to indicate that when Jung’s work was engaged with by the academic community, it was taken to quite different destinations, and underwent a sea change.”

It was Benedict’s Patterns of Culture that was a major source of influence on Jaynes. It created a model for comparing and contrasting different kinds of societies. Benedict was studying two modern societies, but Dodds came to see how it could be applied to different societies across time, even into the ancient world. That was a different way of thinking and opened up new possibilities of understanding. It set the stage for Jaynes’ radical proposal, that consciousness itself was built on culture. From types of personalities to types of cultures.

Here is an additional context to consider. Where did the bundle theory of mind originate in the first place? And how did it take hold in a small number of Western thinkers? Of course, the bundled mind itself probably goes back into the earliest of hominid evolution. As for the earliest written source, the ancient Buddhist texts are the first known example of an articulated bundle theory of mind, in having extended and deepened the psychological insights from even older Hindu texts.

So, how did it go West? The apparently first Western thinker to write about it was David Hume, soon to be followed by Friedrich Nietzsche (The Psychology and Anthropology of Consciousness). Some speculate that Hume heard of this view of the mind from Buddhist texts and ideas carried back with Christian missionaries returning from the East. I don’t know where Nietzsche picked up on it from, although it is true there was a flood of Eastern texts at that time. As a philology scholar and professor, one would suspect Nietzsche would’ve been quite familiar with the new thoughts circulating among Western intellectuals.

There is one thing we can state with certainty. Jung was heavily influenced by Nietzsche, as could be seen in many of his works, including his writings on psychological types. Nietzsche formulated thoughts on the Dionysian and Apollonian. Related to that distinction, Jung also drew upon “Wilhelm Ostwald’s classical and romantic attitudes; Carl Spitteler’s differentiations of Prometheus and Epimetheus; and Goethe’s diastole and systole, terms coined to indicate expansion and contraction” (Deirdre Bair, Jung: A Biography).

One can sense the resonance in the opposition between the bundled mind and egoic mind. To emphasize this point, Nietzsche linked the Apollonian to the visual, i.e., sculpture and dreams; whereas the Dionysian was understood as auditory, i.e., music (Stephen H. Knoblauch, The Apollonian Eye and the Dionysian Ear). Jaynes’ bicameral mind is primarily defined by voice-hearing and his post-bicameral consciousness took form around the visual metaphor of mind as container, as an inner space. This is partly a distinction between oral cultures and literary cultures.

But in various ways, such comparisons had been made by many thinkers. It’s hard to say who originated thinking about the bundled mind, since supposedly everyone has access to it. It’s obviously far from being a new idea exactly. It’s just that, when it was more dominant in the culture, no one bothered to analyze it because it was simply the social and psychic reality that was taken for granted — there was nothing with which to compare and contrast. The bundle theory of mind, as overtly articulated, suddenly pops up in late modern writings.

We are only able to follow the direct lines of influence with the 20th century scholars who were more fastidious about detailing their references. Even then, I’m not sure about all of Dodds’ sources. Where did he first come across this kind of thinking? Was he familiar with Hume, Nietzsche, and/or Jung? Did he know about Buddhist psychology? Dodds was a classical scholar and so one would think he might have had some knowledge about how such ideas developed over time.

All of that is just something that caught my attention. I find fascinating such connections, how ideas get passed on and develop, how they spread like mind viruses. None of that was the original reason for this post, though. I was doing my regular perusing of the web and came across some stuff of interest. This post is simply an excuse to share some of it. Such topics are often on my mind. The human psyche is amazing. It’s easy to forget what a miracle it is to be conscious and the power of the unconscious that underlies it. There is so much more to our humanity than we can begin to comprehend. Such things as dissociation and voice hearing isn’t limited to crazy people or, if it is, then we’re all a bit crazy.

* * *

Other Multiplicity
by Mark and Rana Mannng, Legion Theory

When the corpus callosum is severed in adults, we create separate consciousnesses which can act together cooperatively within a single body. In Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), as it is now known, psychological trauma to the developing mind also creates separate consciousnesses which can act together cooperatively within a single body. And in both cases, in most normal social situations, the individual would provide no reason for someone to suspect that they were not dealing with someone with a unitary consciousness.

The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible
by John Geiger
pp. 161-162

For modern humans generally, however, the stress threshold for triggering a bicameral hallucination is much higher, according to Jaynes: “Most of us need to be over our heads in trouble before we would hear voices.” 10 Yet, he said, “contrary to what many an ardent biological psychiatrist wishes to think, they occur in normal individuals also.” 11 Recent studies have supported him, with some finding that a large minority of the general population, between 30 and 40 percent, report having experienced auditory hallucinations. These often involve hearing one’s own name, but also phrases spoken from the rear of a car, and the voices of absent friends or dead relatives. 12 Jaynes added that it is “absolutely certain that such voices do exist and that experiencing them is just like hearing actual sound.” Even today, though they are loath to admit it, completely normal people hear voices, he said, “often in times of stress.”

Jaynes pointed to an example in which normally conscious individuals have experienced vestiges of bicameral mentality, notably, “shipwrecked sailors during the war who conversed with an audible God for hours in the water until they were saved.” 13 In other words, it emerges in normal people confronting high stress and stimulus reduction in extreme environments. A U.S. study of combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder found a majority (65 percent) reported hearing voices, sometimes “command hallucinations to which individuals responded with a feeling of automatic obedience.”

Gods, voice-hearing and the bicameral mind
by Jules Evans, Philosophy for Life

Although humans evolved into a higher state of subjective consciousness, vestiges of the bicameral mind still remain, most obviously in voice-hearing. As much as 10% of the population hear voices at some point in their lives, much higher than the clinical incidence of schizophrenia (1%). For many people, voice-hearing is not debilitating and can be positive and encouraging.

Sensing a voice or presence often emerges in stressful situations – anecdotally, it’s relatively common for the dying to see the spirits of dead loved ones, likewise as many as 35% of people who have recently lost a loved one say they have a sense of the departed’s continued presence. Mountaineers in extreme conditions often report a sensed presence guiding them (known as the Third Man Factor).

And around 65% of children say they have had ‘imaginary friends’ or toys that play a sort of guardian-angel role in their lives – Jaynes thought children evolve from bicameral to conscious, much as Piaget thought young children are by nature animist

Earslips: Of Mishearings and Mondegreens
by Steven Connor, personal blog

The processing of the sounds of the inanimate world as voices may strike us as a marginal or anomalous phenomenon. However, some recent work designed to explain why THC, the active component of cannabis, might sometimes trigger schizophrenia, points in another direction. Zerrin Atakan of London’s Institute of Psychiatry conducted experiments which suggest that subjects who had been given small doses of THC were much less able to inhibit involuntary actions. She suggests that THC may induce psychotic hallucinations, especially the auditory hallucinations which are classically associated with paranoid delusion, by suppressing the response inhibition which would normally prevent us from reacting to nonvocal sounds as though they were voices. The implications of this argument are intriguing; for it seems to imply that, far from only occasionally or accidentally hearing voices in sounds, we have in fact continuously and actively to inhibit this tendency. Perhaps, without this filter, the wind would always and for all of us be whispering ‘Mary’, or ‘Malcolm’.

Hallucinations and Sensory Overrides
by T. M. Luhrmann, Stanford University

Meanwhile, the absence of cultural categories to describe inner experience does limit
the kinds of psychotic phenomena people experience. In the West, those who are psychotic sometimes experience symptoms that are technically called “thought insertion” and “thought withdrawal”, the sense that some external force has placed thoughts in one’s mind or taken them out. Thought insertion and withdrawal are standard items in symptoms checklists. Yet when Barrett (2004) attempted to translate the item in Borneo, he could not. The Iban do not have an elaborated idea of the mind as a container, and so the idea that someone could experience external thoughts as placed within the mind or removed from it was simply not available to them.

Hallucinatory ‘voices’ shaped by local culture, Stanford anthropologist says
by Clifton B. Parker, Stanford University

Why the difference? Luhrmann offered an explanation: Europeans and Americans tend to see themselves as individuals motivated by a sense of self identity, whereas outside the West, people imagine the mind and self interwoven with others and defined through relationships.

“Actual people do not always follow social norms,” the scholars noted. “Nonetheless, the more independent emphasis of what we typically call the ‘West’ and the more interdependent emphasis of other societies has been demonstrated ethnographically and experimentally in many places.”

As a result, hearing voices in a specific context may differ significantly for the person involved, they wrote. In America, the voices were an intrusion and a threat to one’s private world – the voices could not be controlled.

However, in India and Africa, the subjects were not as troubled by the voices – they seemed on one level to make sense in a more relational world. Still, differences existed between the participants in India and Africa; the former’s voice-hearing experience emphasized playfulness and sex, whereas the latter more often involved the voice of God.

The religiosity or urban nature of the culture did not seem to be a factor in how the voices were viewed, Luhrmann said.

“Instead, the difference seems to be that the Chennai (India) and Accra (Ghana) participants were more comfortable interpreting their voices as relationships and not as the sign of a violated mind,” the researchers wrote.

Tanya Luhrmann, hearing voices in Accra and Chenai
by Greg Downey, Neuroanthropology

local theory of mind—the features of perception, intention, and inference that the community treats as important—and local practices of mental cultivation will affect both the kinds of unusual sensory experiences that individuals report and the frequency of those experiences. Hallucinations feel unwilled. They are experienced as spontaneous and uncontrolled. But hallucinations are not the meaningless biological phenomena they are understood to be in much of the psychiatric literature. They are shaped by explicit and implicit learning around the ways that people pay attention with their senses. This is an important anthropological finding because it demonstrates that cultural ideas and practices can affect mental experience so deeply that they lead to the override of ordinary sense perception.

How Universal Is The Mind?
by Salina Golonka, Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

To the extent that you agree that the modern conception of “cognition” is strongly related to the Western, English-speaking view of “the mind”, it is worth asking what cognitive psychology would look like if it had developed in Japan or Russia. Would text-books have chapter headings on the ability to connect with other people (kokoro) or feelings or morality (dusa) instead of on decision-making and memory? This possibility highlights the potential arbitrariness of how we’ve carved up the psychological realm – what we take for objective reality is revealed to be shaped by culture and language.

A puppet is a magical object. It is not a toy, is it? Here they see it as puppet theatre, as puppets for kids. But it’s just not like that. These native tribes — in Africa or Oceania, etc. — the shamans use puppets in communication not only with the upper world, with the gods, but even in relation when they treat a sick person. Those shamans, when they dress as some demon or some deity, they incarnate genuinely. They are either the totem animal or the demon. (via Matt Cardin)

53 thoughts on “The Psychology and Anthropology of Consciousness

    • Some psychedelic research has shown positive results. There is evidence that certain psychedelics can be useful for resetting the addictive brain. But of course most of the research was made illegal or difficult. It’s only been recently that psychedelic research has started to be taken seriously again.

    • “Intelligence – and not just relentless practice – plays a significant role in determining chess skill”

      That seems based on the assumption that intelligence itself is inherent and uneffected by external variables. The fact is we know that intelligence is causally related to environmental conditions. Besides physical factors (e.g., nutrition), there are things a child does or is encouraged to do that will increase lifelong neurocognitive development and hence intelligence, which in turn would determine their potential for skill at various intellectual activities such as playing chess. Pointing to intelligence as a causal factor isn’t entirely meaningful when intelligence is an indicator of and proxy for so many other causal factors.

    • There is ‘grit’. The only problem with that explanation is that it’s a bit of a non-explanation. It basically states a truism, those who work hard achieve more. It leaves unexplained actual causal factors.

      The related factors are important as well. High IQ sometimes goes along with particular dysfunctions such as Aspergers. Mercury toxicity will increase IQ while also increasing major cognitive and behavioral problems. The same goes for toxoplasmosis for girls.

      Both ‘grit’ and ‘intelligence’ are broad concepts. They can mean many things and be caused by many factors.

  1. There’s reasonably compelling evidence that individual differences in these components of the cognitive system are based in physiology–density of white matter connections, throughput of nutrient supply and metabolic waste disposal, balance and distribution of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, etc.–which might well mean no human has approached the upper limit to how much these cognitive resources could scale up.

    • That is a scientific way of stating something that otherwise seems obvious. We have no reason, based on scientific evidence, to assume humans have come even close to their cognitive potential. But we have much reason to guess that cognitive potential might be immense.

    • That makes me sad. I was talking to my dad about this kind of thing. Why don’t we praise people for being basically well-functioning and socially adapted? Why do employers care so little about moral character and the work ethic? Why don’t we raise kids to be kind and helpful? Our priorities in this society are massively fucked up.

    • It shows how easily biases get built into institutions. But it’s funny that this gets so much attention in the way it does. I noticed that article is from the American Enterprise Institute, an extremely right-wing think tank. I doubt that think tank publishes articles about the racial and class biases also built into such institutions.

        • Even limiting ourselves to the issue of IQ tests, what are the biases of education or whatever that might be leading to the result of more high IQ boys? We know from other countries and sub-populations that the opposite pattern is found. The causal factors obviously include environmental factors, which inevitably would involve systemic and institutional factors. So, all we know is that one set of factors has a gender bias in one direction and another set of factors has a gender bias in the other direction. Neither bias is fair, assuming that fairness is the issue, but of course those working at right-wing think tanks have never cared about fairness for a moment in their lives.

    • I wonder if this has to do with the weird descriptions that get made about the ‘gifted’. Girls are more likely to develop earlier and so they maybe don’t stick out as much, since girls tend to learn social skills earlier. The very notion of ‘gifted’ has been portrayed as socially dysfunctional and so a smart kid who is more socially functional might not be perceived as being ‘gifted’. The very notion of ‘gifted’ has maybe become skewed toward stereotypical boy behaviors. Every parent with a boy who acts out wants to believe their child is ‘gifted’ rather than just being a standard boy.

    • This is one of those pointless debates. Sure, we always need better research for everything. And with new info, we will gain new understandings. But the kind of person who points to this aren’t interested in meaningful, rational debate.

      This Dienekes blog is an example of what to avoid. As with many alt-righters talking about race, he uses terms like Caucasoids and Negroids. WTF! Are we still in the 19th century? Such idiocy will drive even the most patiently tolerant insane.

    • Some comments from the Youtube video:

      sa ra6 months ago
      most university graduates in developed countries are women .in Iran 70 percent of stem fields and engineering students are women (despite all its government attempt to ban them from university) early digital computer programmers were women and wireless was invented by a woman.I mentioned these few that you can feel their impact on the present moment where you are sitting at your desk in front of your laptob

      carmillaburana2 years ago
      The notion of “too good to be true” is not a scientific one, but an ideological one. How is a valid sociological explanation too efficient to be relevant ?
      Plus, as to the lack of “control subjects”, how exactly are these to be found : where can we find women and men who have not been subjected all their life to both insidious and direct bias about women’s mathematical abilities ? On Mars ?
      The control subjects exist : they are the men, and the tests show that existing prejudices affect both men (who perform better because they are told they are better and hence gain confidence in this domain) and women (who are told the opposite). But an informed scholar such as yourself should know that social structures are embedded in ideological beliefs that cannot be merely put aside for the sake of a test’s objectivity… Unless you deliberately seek to mislead your audience into reinforcing old dogmatic views on relationship between men and women…

    • A good response to the idiocy, along with a couple of comments to it:

      Those familiar with discussion of social science research on inequalities will recognize this kind of question as a “magic button” question. Is stereotype threat the one overwhelming thing that causes a gender gap in mathematics? Um, does any social phenomenon have just one overwhelming cause? Generally not, but that doesn’t stop Stoet, and his coauthor David C. Geary, from asking exactly that. […]

      So the question of the paper was not “Does stereotype threat exist?” or “Does stereotype threat contribute to gender differences on difficult mathematical tests?” If it had been, the answer provided by the paper would have been an unequivocal “Yes.” The authors excluded every study that did not use a male control group or used an adjustment to math scores, and they still found that that the existence of stereotype threat was supported in 30% of situations studied. […]

      There is evidence of stereotype threat that has been replicated reliably, if not universally. For a social phenomenon, that’s pretty good. […]

      o, the paper shows an effect even after removing the studies without male control groups, but it’s important to mention those studies don’t have male control groups–and that being told men don’t perform well at a math test could, if it ever happened, possibly affect men’s performance. The paper says that, to the extent stereotype threat is presented as the only problem affecting women’s performance, there is too much attention paid to stereotype threat, but the press release says paying any attention to it at all is a problem. The paper finds replication of the effect, but the press release calls it “a problem that does not exist”.

      It’s a sad state of affairs when a press release and a paper are this far off on their conclusions, but it does, once again, demonstrate how important it is to read the one of them that is peer-reviewed.

      aleph squared
      July 23, 2012 at 7:51 am
      The weird thing for me is that even if this paper did conclude that stereotype threat doesn’t exist/have an effect, stereotype threat has been supported by so many studies that it would need many many more studies finding no effect to make it even remotely reasonable to declare something as grandiose as stereotype threat being over or gone or never here.

      Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg
      July 23, 2012 at 9:29 am
      Ah, yes, press releases.
      That’s how I learned over the years to go and check if tehre was something spectacular in the press. Most times you’re going to be disappointed, angry or both.
      But I’m wondering a bit about the control-group question (I remember from the “Gender Delusion” that you actually can test this with a male control in some cases, but how are you going to control for a phenomenon that is present since we’re born?
      I mean, you can’t just change the message to “men are bad at maths” unless you raise a group of men in a Trueman-show scenario.

      July 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm
      What Giliell said. It’s impossible to find a control group that isn’t in some way conditioned to common social/cultural memes and tropes. I do think that looking at stereotype threat is one angle on a much bigger problem, and that bigger problem would be easier to test for.

      Three groups, randomly chosen. One group is told that the average mark on the test is 80. Another group is told that the average mark on the test is 50. A third group is told nothing. See how the test results compare. Do a second test, mix up the groupings, and see how the results compare to the original.
      It’s not exactly the same..with stereotype threat you’re talking about internal expectations and with that test you’re looking at external expectations, but I would suspect you would get similar results, due to things such as confidence and stress.
      One reason why I think one would see a rather big pushback against these concepts is that they directly challenge some pretty big concepts in terms of academics and education. (I.E. with high stakes testing we’re not only testing knowledge, we’re also testing relative stress levels, making the results basically useless if you’re looking to measure knowledge)

    • This is what undermines the HBD, race realism, and other such simplistic views. Changing a single factor can alter real world results to an extreme degree. Now consider the fact that every result is dependent on unknown numbers (thousands? millions?) of factors, most of which we are completely unaware of and ignorant about. Humans and societies are complex systems within an even more complex environment.

      Based on little knowledge and much speculation, to blame so much on a single factor like race or whatever is pure idiocy (even ignoring to what extent these kinds of categories are meaningful at all). If you feel the need to focus on a single factor, at least look for one that has been thoroughly researched and confirmed such as lead toxicity, nutrition, or inequality.

      One thing that is clear is how little we still know about human nature and the world. The other thing is that humans constantly surprise us in demonstrating the immensity of potential that remains hidden until certain conditions and incidences cause it to manifest.

    • Yeah. I get irritated and bored with most speculation. It’s not that I dislike speculation on principle. But most of the time it seems ideologically driven, a conclusion looking for evidence. A case in point:

      “But for all the work that Zhao, Plomin, and others have done to this point, not a single gene has reliably been shown to account for the heritability of IQ. Plomin believes that if we could identify just a few of the genes associated with IQ, we could make huge strides in the field of education.”

      Even though the evidence is lacking, Plomin thinks we should keep looking for the evidence he believes should exist because that is what he wants to believe. Maybe genetics by itself doesn’t directly explain anything, since genetics are dependent on epigenetics and environment. The same genetics could express with completely opposite results dependent on unknown numbers of factors.

      I noticed this as well:

      “Essentially, what heritability estimates is the ratio between how much the range of genetic differences can affect a given trait compared to how much a range of environmental factors can affect that same trait.”

      That isn’t quite correct. It isn’t compared to all environmental factors. The comparison is only to known and measurable environmental factors, which probably isn’t the majority of environmental factors.

      Plus, how do epigentics and the microbiome, the latter including non-human genetics (90% of the human body’s genetics is non-human), fit into the equation? By the way, the microbes in your body contribute to which human genetics get expressed and how they get expressed (i.e., epigenetics).

      Once again, in speculating, we are simply out of our depths. Our present ignorance swamps our present knowledge. Speculation ends up being pointless. Maybe we should simply admit we don’t entirely know at the moment. It could turn out genetics doesn’t work whatsoever like we assume it to work.

      Instead of wasting our time on speculation, maybe we should focus on what we have proven to improve lives: better nutrition, healthcare availability, disease control, parasite elimination, pollution regulation, education resources, etc. After we take care of the obvious failures of our society, then we can move onto more complex problems of genetics.

    • That is the type of thing that seems like speculating on limited info. These simplistic discussions always miss the point. They often become platforms for ideological opinionating, looking for the evidence that fits some particular view. One commenter made a similar point about the lack of context:

      “As a statistician, this feels like over-interpreting the results of a simple regression.
      An alternative explanation is that not all “training” as measured is equal. For example, measuring training as a computer scientist as “number of hours on the job” is too coarse a metric to capture the aspects that is driving development, (working in a stanford lab versus working at a helpdesk).”

      I’m also reminded of the book I’ve been reading, This Is Your Brain on Parasites by Kathleen McAuliffe.

      In one section, she discusses the microbiome. One study she mentions involved microbially sterile mice, such as behaving less cautiously. They act different than normal mice because microbes apparently help animals in the learning process, along with determining how the structure of the brain develops.

      Accordingly, the existence and kind of microbiome would determine how much effect practice has. The ability to learn, from practice or otherwise, is dependent on many other factors as well.

      I’m constantly amazed about how ignorant we are about almost every aspect of life and the world. Change one factor and you’ll get entirely different results and most of the time we don’t even know what the factors are. It’s like that other mice study showing that even scientific controls don’t control for apparently some of the most important factors that can dramatically alter results.

      We should be much more intellectually humble in our speculations. And we should assume that almost everything we believe and think we know is to some degree false, partial, or inadequate in explaining reality.

  2. “To the extent that you agree that the modern conception of “cognition” is strongly related to the Western, English-speaking view of “the mind”, it is worth asking what cognitive psychology would look like if it had developed in Japan or Russia”

    Good question. William Blake famously blamed Locke and Newton for “dividing” the Western psyche and setting it upon itself.

    I don’t know if my comment on your Ideasthesia post got lost or it’s still awaiting moderation, because in there I wrote about the multiple ways in which people around my neck of the woods experience the world (including themselves) and connect it to Hindu traditions (chakras) as well, while elaborating some features of my tribe’s native spiritual way, vödú (which you guys call voodoo).

    I, for instance, can think not in words or pictures or even sound, but in taste or some other sense. Western education is biased to visual faculties. All my other imaginations (verbal, sonic, visual, etc) would be working but down-regulated. I’d just be imagining tastes and other gustatory experiences.

    This is why I like that theory of multiple intelligence so much, and prefer it to personality psychology. It actually can incorporate it, though; and I like that because Jung’s Reason which could either be affective or logical makes good sense; though, it goes even beyond that to faculties like Evaluative Reason; so Multiple Intelligence expands personality psychology and allows more dynamics and flexibility.

    I agree about cognitive psych, but well, that’s what it is by definition: the psychology of COGNITION. Hahaha.

    The younger field of Motivation Psychology would incorporate all of these and examine the topic better, in my view. I encourage you getting involved there too: you may be more satisfied by their broader perspective of taking into account affect, cognition, values, goals, advantage/disadvantage, etc, for how the psyche works.

    • “This is why I like that theory of multiple intelligence so much, and prefer it to personality psychology. It actually can incorporate it, though; and I like that because Jung’s Reason which could either be affective or logical makes good sense; though, it goes even beyond that to faculties like Evaluative Reason; so Multiple Intelligence expands personality psychology and allows more dynamics and flexibility.”

      I hadn’t previously thought about the correspondence of those two theories. But I can sense how they’d overlap. I’m not sure either would so much be an extension of the other, though, since I suspect the extension of such views could go in multiple directions.

      You bring up evaluative reason, which to my mind sounds much like the essence of Introverted Feeling. The dominant Fi types, at their core, make judgments but this propensity is not quite either affective or logical in how a non-IXFP is likely to think about it. The affective as emotional perception and expression, relating and behavior is more in line with the SF types and the FJ types. And the logical as analytical and abstract thought has more to do with the Thinking types.

      This is why going back to Jung dominant Fi has been considered inscrutible, as it doesn’t fit into the Western paradigm of the human mind and human nature. But I could see how this function could also be understood in terms of multiple intelligences. I’d assume that each theory has insights the other lacks. And each surely would interpret even the same observations in different light.

      About your encouraging me to look into motivation psychology, I suppose I could do that. But I’d have to find a way to feel my way into the topic. Is there a particular angle, a particular thinker or theory you have in mind? Have you read some good pieces on it? And if you know it in some detail, could you offer some of the ways it might link to other areas of study?

      I typically have to explore the connections before I can grasp what something is and then explore it more deeply in and of itself. That is why I tend to start with the secondary literature that puts something in a larger context, outlining the factors of the historical and interpersonal in how ideas were articulated, developed, and influenced. I have to slowly work myself into a worldview by first tracing its most distant borders.

        • Evaluative reasoning seems akin to meta-cognition, the thinking about thought and what is related to thought. It’s seeking to understand the context, meaning, and significance of what is in or of the mind. To me, this very much feels like not merely Fi but that combined with Ne. I can annoy people with always looking for what is underlying both below ideas, words, and behavior. And this was a common attitude among INFPs I interacted with on an INFP forum. As a judging function, dominant Fi is all about discernment and “appraisal of the effectiveness, validity, meaning and relevance of an act, idea, technique or object. But much of this especially relevance would be heavily informed by the wide-ranging context and connections coming from auxiliary Ne. It might be different for an ISFP. Without auxiliary Ne, there would be less interest in thought, ideas, etc. It is the auxiliary function that, for the Introvert, gives them the material their dominant function works with.

          There is another aspect as well. INFPs, according to theory, have tertiary Si. This has made sense in my experience. There is a very human quality about Si, similar to the very human quality of Fi, as both are obsessed with the subjective and intersubjective. Si looks for another kind of meaning in relationships, in the familiar and known, what is grounded in the past and in tradition. My mother is a dominant Si type and it is from her that I learned my obsession with psychologically analyzing people, specifically other family members. A tertiary function supposedly plays a key role in the psyche as expressing in child-like ways and INFPs do tend to have strong attachments to their own childhood and their child-like sensibility. Si gives a personal depth to Fi, as Ne gives breadth. Then aspirational Te can give an analytical edge that shows up more over time. My own Te has very much come to overcompensate because of learning analytical thought from my ESTJ father. There is, in the INFP experience, a dynamic polarity between Fi’s evaluative reason and Te’s analytical reason.

          Western society in general and American society in particular, according to John L. Giannini in Compass of the Soul, is dominated by the ESTJ type although shifting toward ENTJ (dominant Te in either case). That is why the INFP has long represented the shadow of dominant WEIRD society, which probably puts a massive psychic load on INFPs for them to carry. Evaluative reasoning isn’t merely an alternative form of reason but a threat to the social order. Fi easily manifests in challenging and even radical ways. I’ve speculated that Osama bin Laden was an INFP, considering his values-driven intellect and moral righteousness — he didn’t only judge Western civilization for he did so from a position that questioned the entire ideological justification for Western hegemony, and so his zealous vision had immense persuasion and power to those he was speaking to and for. Moral righteousness is evaluative reasoning pushed to an extreme. It maybe was what gave an edge to the fiery rhetoric of someone like Thomas Paine.

          As a side note, I feel a need to throw in some comments on dominant Ni. I’ve long been fascinated with it, as you know. It is inscrutible in a different way than Fi and maybe is even less understood. A dominant Fi type often chooses not to be understood as a defensive measure. But dominant Ni types, without the psychological impulse of Fi, maybe don’t even tend to understand themselves all that well. Ni is a black hole that the mind spirals around but the center remains forever hidden, including to the dominant Ni type. The dominant Ni types I’ve known don’t seem overly capable of articulating Ni to themselves, much less explaining it to others. The dominant Fi type, however, knows (or feels they know) with absolute certainty their own sense of core identity, meaning, and value. I bring this up because, thought not a judging function, Ni has a drilling down component that could be expressed as discerning insight, if not entirely evaluative in nature. Despite it being a perceiving function, dominant Ni is powerfully turned inward and because of its abstract tendency it can be applied to reasoning, but for certain it is neither analytical nor affective. So, if it isn’t exactly evaluative reason, we must come up with a fourth category of thinking style.

          It’s not an issue of what one thinks of Jungian typology, in the form of Myers-Briggs or anything else. Jungian typology simply gives a terminology for speaking about what otherwise is difficult to give voice to. Jungian typology itself is very much grounded in evaluative reasoning. As formulated in Myers-Briggs theory, it has been argued that it is heavily biased toward INFP because Isabel Briggs Myers was, as indicated in the test she developed, an INFP. It’s interesting to think that something like evaluative reasoning might not be limited to a thinking style for it also might have elements of a personality type/function or, if you prefer FFM and Big 5, a personality trait. One way or another, thinking styles do seem related to personality, whichever one might be the primary causal factor (though maybe neither is causal and instead both effects of something deeper). But obviously, anyone potentially can learn any thinking style as anyone potentially can develop any function-attitude or trait. Neuroplasticity allows for much wiggle room within the human psyche.


        I have not yet found an authoritative acknowledgment of the existence of evaluative reasoning except in philosophy.

        Based on my ongoing study of it I find it to have a huge part to play in what moral reasoning is, but is very different from logic and affective reasoning (which you say Extraverted Feeling ). The problem is our collective (Anglophones) English vernacular has used moral to term both evaluative reasoning and affective reasoning for so long we no longer realize that moral reasoning is simply reasoning according to social mores judgments of right and wrong that decide the fate or the survival of the group.

        It also doesn’t help that Kant saw moral and sentiment being the same. Related, but not same.

        Evaluation is more about considerations like context, relevance, importance, advantage (both personal, other, or social/group-centred) – some of what I guess people perceive and thus makes them believe reason is a slave of the feelings or the emotions or whatever. But it isn’t; it is also a very cold, calculating, brainy apparatus that has nothing to do with “feelings”.

        Affective reasoning is more of interpersonal. This is the domain of compassion, empathy, sympathy, even schadenfreude, irritation and annoyance. Without it you can’t be good at rhetoric and art – I guess I’m good at it and that’s why I’m so good at both black and blue humor.

        Thus, for a wit like me, annoying you would be to provoke a wry laughter. But for an aggressor, it’d be to emotionally destroy you. This is where both evaluative and affective reasoning combine.

        I say Kant was wrong in conflating moral and sentiment because of this example: there are two hostages – your friend/lover and the heir-apparent of your society – whom would you save, if you could only save one and only one? Saving the heir ensures the continuity of your society when the current ruler is gone. Saving your friend/lover is as anyone does to a friend: not wanting to see harm come to them. Another even more illustrative example is your friend has a deadly contagious disease and you must make a decision: the fate of your society versus the fate of your friend, which would you save?

        In each example, one is a moral consideration and the other is an affective one. But typically, because groups have to do with humans, whom by default you’d affectionate (not in sense of “love” or romance and such like) with, you “feel” something in terms of the moral as well.

        And those who believe reasoning is opposed to feeling are wrong. Reason is just a faculty of combining, splitting, ordering, organizing – both creative and critical. Jung was right, I say. Jung introducing into the psychological literature the faculty of Feeling was a masterstroke. I’d call it affective reasoning now though. And in doing that he made the distinction between Feeling and Affect/Emotion, where the latter is a sensation. I agree. When you reflect on it, emotions are just mostly pleasure or pain relating to more intangible events rather than actual tangible objects, e.g. your disgust at sociopolitical events versus an ant biting you.

        Sensation itself in human biology encompasses sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, pain perception, temperature perception, perception of position. All are grouped under either interoception (perception of internal events) or exteroception (perception of external events) And Jung wants us to include Emotion/Affect among these – and I agree. So Emotion would be a perception of an internal event, just like hunger/satiety or thirst/satiety.

        Moral is more of evaluating phenomena in a social context. It isn’t a type of reason, but only a context. Moral is the word for what’s concerned with the fate of a group and some other word must be coined for what’s concerned with the fate of an individual person or thing or place.

        • From the first link: “Decision makers frequently need evaluation to help them work out what to do to build on strengths and address weaknesses. To do so, they must know not only what the strengths and weaknesses are, but also which are the most important or serious, and how well or poorly the programme or policy is performing on them. Evaluative reasoning is the process of synthesizing the answers to lower- and mid-level evaluation questions into defensible judgements that directly answer the key evaluation questions.”

          The first part definitely evokes the modus operandi of a judging function. But it’s unclear what that would mean in terms of judging type vs perceiving type, as opposed to judging dominant function-attitude vs perceiving dominant function-attitude. A judging dominant function attitude will very much apply evaluative reasoning. Whether or not that is applied to external decision-making, though, has more to do with the judging function being Extraverted.

          Then again, maybe the Introvert with a judging function-attitude does make decisions if they are less outwardly apparent. I have a strong capacity to make a judgment and then follow through on it. For example, I decided the Amazon corporation was a threat to our society and so I haven’t done business with them for years. It was a decision made, albeit made privately in my own moral reckoning and moral behavior. This Intoverted-style of evaluative reasoning has to be pushed back so far to have its core principles threatened before they will turn to more Extraverted-style action. That is why, when its important enough, INFPs can make great visionary leaders who command with an absolute certainty of moral conviction, unpersuaded by the practical concerns and limitations of society.

          The last part is where dominant Ni can overlap with the territory of evaluative reasoning. As Ne ranges widely, Ni brings everything up close. It may look like madness or idiosyncrasy to the outsider, but there is a potent synthesis going on at the heart of Ni. What Ni by itself doesn’t lead to is outward judgment and decision-making. Ni offers no concrete answers and decisive solutions, evaluative or otherwise. Still, it can synthesize like no other. And combined with an auxiliary judging function that is Extraverted, the more well-developed dominant Ni type might be able to develop their own form of evaluative reasoning that with the late-life maturity of aspirational Se could have practical application. I could particularly see evaluative reasoning being used by an INTJ where tertiary Fi could play a helpful role of assisting Ni on the inner level. But INFJs can have a personable quality that makes Ni more accessible in relating to others and so might be more easy to apply as evaluative reasoning in the interpersonal world (they’ve been described as teddy bears with spikes).

          As compared to this, Fi doesn’t directly do the synthesizing work of Ni, even as it can mimic it by Fi reigning in Ne. I know personally the synthesizing part can be difficult for me since reigning in Ne is no easy task, which is the reason grounding of Si is helpful for bringing balance to the Perceiving side of the equation.

          Many kinds of people could come to evaluative reasoning by different paths. Obviously, evaluative reasoning isn’t a single thing. It is rather a broad umbrella of abilities that can express in divergent ways. What defines it most of all is what it isn’t, primarily and essentially neither analytical nor affective. In Jungian terms, my sense is that one way or another it has to do with the relationship between Intuition and Feeling, specifically Fi. Myers-Briggs offers a framework of thinking about this relationship in more complex and diverse ways, far beyond a single faculty but a broad range of abilities with numerous underlying mechanisms and expressions. Then again, I don’t doubt there are other entirely different frameworks that could be useful for this exact same purpose. Jung and Myers-Briggs just happens to be a view I’m most familiar with.

        • “Based on my ongoing study of it I find it to have a huge part to play in what moral reasoning is, but is very different from logic and affective reasoning (which you say Extraverted Feeling ). The problem is our collective (Anglophones) English vernacular has used moral to term both evaluative reasoning and affective reasoning for so long we no longer realize that moral reasoning is simply reasoning according to social mores judgments of right and wrong that decide the fate or the survival of the group.”

          This feels like familiar territory to me. As someone who tests as INFP, Fi is the function-attitude that directly deals with values and morality, and hence has to do with evaluative reasoning. To my INFP sensibility, the individual and the intersubjective are always mixed up. That is the essence of Fi. That is why so much always seems at stake in my thinking. I have less cognitive distance, in certain ways, than most people have and so I can easily take things personally, even ideas. That is to say everything, from my perspective, is immersed in value. I’m in constant evaluative mode.

          “Evaluation is more about considerations like context, relevance, importance, advantage (both personal, other, or social/group-centred) – some of what I guess people perceive and thus makes them believe reason is a slave of the feelings or the emotions or whatever. But it isn’t; it is also a very cold, calculating, brainy apparatus that has nothing to do with “feelings”.”

          That also fits into my experience. Some mistake INFPs as being merely or primarily emotional and no doubt INFPs are very interested in emotion and sometimes can express it easily. But Fi values and evaluation is not emotion. There can be a harsh aspect to Fi — as you say: “cold, calculating, brainy”. Many INFPs are rather intellectual and can be off-putting in their intensity. There isn’t always a surplus of emotional intelligence in the Fe sense… or else a stubborn unwillingness to use emotional intelligence because of an internal demand of a sometimes harsh moral sense. To dominant Fi, all will be judged and that may mean consequences be damned. It doesn’t always feel like a choice for an INFP since this is the core of their being. It would be betrayal when it touches upon personal values.

          “Affective reasoning is more of interpersonal. This is the domain of compassion, empathy, sympathy, even schadenfreude, irritation and annoyance. Without it you can’t be good at rhetoric and art – I guess I’m good at it and that’s why I’m so good at both black and blue humor.”

          INFPs love that kind of thing. But that isn’t to say they’re always good at it. That is because the interpersonal gets filtered through Ne. Fi may try to play the role of interpersonal by feeling into others and into the world at large. Still, it’s not the same thing, no matter how hard an INFP may try. They are better at understanding the interpersonal than they are in using it for actual relating. Ne observes and gathers, and then Fi filters and discerns… a slow methodical process that does not allow for immediate interpersonal responsiveness. Of course, anyone potentially could develop interpersonal skills. I’ve gotten better at it and yet it doesn’t come naturally.

          “Moral is more of evaluating phenomena in a social context. It isn’t a type of reason, but only a context. Moral is the word for what’s concerned with the fate of a group and some other word must be coined for what’s concerned with the fate of an individual person or thing or place.”

          To my INFP mind, this is all mixed up. Even though Introverted and often protective of their individuality, this personality type is obsessed with social phenomenon and social context. I don’t just feel my values and inner experience for I also feel my way into others and into the world. I feel everything, until I get overwhelmed and shut down. It can involve emotions, though not necessarily, since at times it can be utterly neutral or disengaged toward emotional content. Fi is a judging function and so can express purely as critical evaluation, piercing discernment, etc.

        • “Jung introducing into the psychological literature the faculty of Feeling was a masterstroke. I’d call it affective reasoning now though. And in doing that he made the distinction between Feeling and Affect/Emotion, where the latter is a sensation. […] So Emotion would be a perception of an internal event, just like hunger/satiety or thirst/satiety.”

          I concur with your assessment. I’m familiar with Si through my mother. There is a strong emotional/affective component to it. My mom is an extremely pragmatic and grounded person in many ways, but she is also driven by emotion and can be highly sensitive. There is no contradiction in this. All of this is about Perceiving by way of Introversion.

          This is why my mother so often conflates her emotions with her perceptions, in that everything has an emotional tinge. She can be quite prickly, which maybe is a common trait of all IXXJ types. Her home is as an emotional space and so a personal atmosphere. Si represents all that is familiar and what creates familiarity is largely emotion. With the passive quality of Perceiving, emotion lacks the active quality of Judging and hence lacks evaluation on its own.

          Your comments reminded me of something. Emotions aren’t things or essences. They can’t be found anywhere for, as you discuss, they are what and how we perceive. The following is an author who takes this to the next step by tossing in the cultural angle. It’s easy to think how culture is involved in the Judging functions because we are familiar with cultural judgments, but the same applies to the Perceiving functions. I’m not sure exactly if that fits in with your own views. I just thought I’d throw it out there.

          How Emotions are Made
          by Lisa Feldman Barrett
          Kindle Locations 91-104):

          “And yet . . . despite the distinguished intellectual pedigree of the classical view of emotion, and despite its immense influence in our culture and society, there is abundant scientific evidence that this view cannot possibly be true. Even after a century of effort, scientific research has not revealed a consistent, physical fingerprint for even a single emotion.”

          “So what are they, really?

          “When scientists set aside the classical view and just look at the data, a radically different explanation for emotion comes to light. In short, we find that your emotions are not built-in but made from more basic parts. They are not universal but vary from culture to culture. They are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment. Emotions are real, but not in the objective sense that molecules or neurons are real. They are real in the same sense that money is real— that is, hardly an illusion, but a product of human agreement.”

          Kindle Locations 2999-3002

          “Essentialism is the culprit that has made the classical view supremely difficult to set aside. It encourages people to believe that their senses reveal objective boundaries in nature. Happiness and sadness look and feel different, the argument goes, so they must have different essences in the brain. People are almost always unaware that they essentialize; they fail to see their own hands in motion as they carve dividing lines in the natural world.”

          Kindle Locations 3245-3293

          “Now that the final nails are being driven into the classical view’s coffin in this era of neuroscience, I would like to believe that this time, we’ll actually push aside essentialism and begin to understand the mind and brain without ideology. That’s a nice thought, but history is against it. The last time that construction had the upper hand, it lost the battle anyway and its practitioners vanished into obscurity. To paraphrase a favorite sci-fi TV show, Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before and could happen again.” And since the last occurrence, the cost to society has been billions of dollars, countless person-hours of wasted effort, and real lives lost. […]

          “The official history of emotion research, from Darwin to James to behaviorism to salvation, is a byproduct of the classical view. In reality, the alleged dark ages included an outpouring of research demonstrating that emotion essences don’t exist. Yes, the same kind of counterevidence that we saw in chapter 1 was discovered seventy years earlier . . . and then forgotten. As a result, massive amounts of time and money are being wasted today in a redundant search for fingerprints of emotion. […]

          “It’s hard to give up the classical view when it represents deeply held beliefs about what it means to be human. Nevertheless, the facts remain that no one has found even a single reliable, broadly replicable, objectively measurable essence of emotion. When mountains of contrary data don’t force people to give up their ideas, then they are no longer following the scientific method. They are following an ideology. And as an ideology, the classical view has wasted billions of research dollars and misdirected the course of scientific inquiry for over a hundred years. If people had followed evidence instead of ideology seventy years ago, when the Lost Chorus pretty solidly did away with emotion essences, who knows where we’d be today regarding treatments for mental illness or best practices for rearing our children.”

          • I don’t know if Emotion doesn’t exist or not, but I do think what Emotion particularly responds to differs from culture to culture. Sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, the language for Emotions reflect the spiritual traditions of the people. I told you about the Hindu chakra-like experience of my people: in the particular example I gave it would be indignation in English. Not just an offense, but indignation. Sometimes, somehow, Emotions expressed very well by some languages aren’t so for others. The Emotions may remain essentially the same, in as much as we are all human with a human nervous system, but they differ in what they respond to; or else, eliciting it will be very difficult, because it doesn’t have as much import to one person as it does to another, so that you’d think it doesn’t even exist.

          • Emotions do and do not exist, in the way that any socially constructed thing exists: cultures, languages, numbers, states of mind, worldviews, philosophies, religions, governments, national borders, economic systems, socioeconomic class, ethnicity/race, etc. As you know, some go so far as to argue that individual and interiorized self-consciousness is socially constructed. This is maybe easier to understand from a neurological perspective. Recent research has shown that the brain treats perception and hallucination exactly the same. Both are active and creative processes.

            I think I brought this up in at least one recent post, but I forget which one (maybe it can be found in what I wrote about psychedelics and language). It goes further than some emotions not being expressed as well in certain cultures. The study of philology, linguistics, and anthropology indicate that experience itself isn’t often shared. That is particularly seen with the research into linguistic relativism. Much of what we thought was universal to human nature has turned out to be cultural, from numbers to colors, from sense of time to sense of direction. I’ve discussed this before in terms of social science and WEIRD populations, as most research has been done in Western countries and most research in Western countries has been done in the US, the WEIRDest of the WEIRD. This was discovered as more research was done with other cultures, especially hunter-gatherers.

            But the vastness of cultural divide is maybe seen most starkly with the study of ancient texts where there are experiences referred to that don’t match anything we modern humans comprehend (I’m thinking not only of Jaynes, also of Ong, Havelock, Snell, etc). Even the same words over time entirely change meaning, often going from some specific concrete experience to generalized abstraction. This is seen also with the ancient use of what we think of as color terms which seem to have as much referred to other things as well: texture, brightness, shade, affect, etc. This is far beyond merely an issue of interpretation. It’s an impenetrable barrier. We have no idea, in many cases, what they were writing about.

            The same basic wall of incomprehension happens among present cultures too, as seen in the anthropological literature. Daniel Everett shared a number of incidents where he was with Piraha in the exact same place and yet might as well have been in a separate reality. The Piraha experienced and saw things that were simply beyond Everett’s cultural reality tunnel. Meanwhile, maybe dozens of Piraha all around him shared the same experience. The Enlightenment belief in a universal human nature has been severely challenged, to say the least; and so has genetic determinism that was always mixed into Enlightenment thought. It turns out the human mind-body is much more plastic, as seen with epigenetics and the microbiome. Noam Chomsky was one of the many Western thinkers who defended a universal nature, that of a language structure/module built into the brain, but it was Everett’s work with the Piraha that proved it wrong.

            That isn’t to say we know what understanding will replace prior assumptions and biases. Lisa Feldman Barrett is just one among many who, after the old theories have been cleared away, are trying to make sense of the new evidence. But one thing is clear, the once dominant Western paradigm of the Enlightenment will either have to be entirely tossed out or largely overhauled. Quite likely, it will be thinkers from outside of the West who will be better positioned to come up with radically new explanations that will revolutionize thought.

  3. Carl Jung was a Jaynesian prior to Julian Jaynes, with the latter’s book coming out 7 years later (1976) and many decades after Jung first began writing about such ideas:

    “Before man learned to produce thoughts, thoughts came to him. He did not think–he perceived his mind functioning.” –Psychology and Religion: East and West, par. 81, 1969.

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