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From: John Bishop <jbishop@blkbrd.zko.dec.com>
Subject: (urth) Re: Jaynes as influence on Wolfe's _Soldier_
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 10:27:10 

Mothman _et_al_:

In 1991 I wrote Gene Wolfe, asking him whether he had read Jaynes,
and whether that had influenced _Soldier_.

He wrote back saying that he had not read Julian Jaynes' book _The
Origin_of_Consciousness_in_the_Breakdown_of_the_Bicameral_Mind_ until
after he wrote _Soldier_, and found the book's hypothesis implausible. 

(He also said "I would have liked to footnote every page."  The
publisher didn't go along with this, as they felt it would reduce
the number of sales.)
So there you have it--a beautiful theory slain by a single ugly fact.

I also found Jayne's hypothesis unlikely, as it fails to explain
why the world is not still full of people who see gods.  I think he
points to reading as crucial (if I recall correctly), but while
literacy may work for some, there are still a lot of illiterates
who seem to be self-conscious.  On the other hand, I like the
approach--taking texts literally rather than 
"spiritually" has
been successful in the past (e.g. finding Troy based on Homer),
and it does explain the large number of statues in the past compared
to the small number today (though I explain that by pointing to
other PR outlets than statuary we now have).

re Rostrum's quote of Lewis--we have actual examples of traditional
peoples who have been extensively investigated; some do make the
distiction (between "participating in this liturgy, or ... just going
through the motions") and others don't.  In particular, I've read
that this is one of the reasons the Hopi and the Navaho don't get
along: the Hopi believe that correct form is important, but that
ritual doesn't require sincere feeling; the Navaho believe that
sincere feeling is crucial but form is secondary.

It's easy to say wierd things about the Classical world and not be
proven wrong; it's harder when there are living people to question.
While the Hopi are not the ancient Egyptians, etc., I think we can
usefully look to recent anthropological work to illuminate the past.

re _Snow_Crash_: it was fun, but the basic premise is just wrong;
Sumerian is _not_ the first language--it's maybe the oldest one we
have texts from, but that's different.  Plus it's not a "brain-stem
hacking" tool; I've looked at it in passing and it's just another
language.  As a BA in Linguistics, I've not yet seen SF which gets
Linguistics right at all; the tendancy is to go wild on the wildest
version of Whorf' hypothesis, or to get some basic concept wrong.
As an MSc in Computer Science, it's the same for computing.  This
is not to say that there couldn't be a tool for programming the mind
via language (indeed, advertising and so on show that there _is_),
but it's not going to be Sumerian.

	-John Bishop

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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