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Jaynes, Korzybski, Lakoff, metaphor  
Posted by Donnie Darko on November 20 2007, 08:46 » Uploaded 21/11/07 13:09  

(Emailed to me. Erudite and above my head, but some of you may like it)

Julian Jaynes' *The Origin of Consciousness* is an odd book, that's for sure. In what other work of modern scholarship would you find an expression like 'a crotch of upper branch awninged with green leaves'? The OED does indeed list 'crotch' in the sense (#4) of 'The fork of a tree or bough, where it divides into two limbs or branches', though it has no more recent usage than 1889. But the use of 'branch' here is very strange: it is treated almost as a mass noun, without article or quantifier. And although 'awninged' is correct, I really wish it were 'awned'.

If you dipped into the first chapter, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a book on language. Jaynes, like Mencius, likes toying with English and coming up with new terms--for instance, he coins 'struction' to cover both instruction and construction. After insisting (as would George Lakoff, much more famously, four years later) that metaphor is the 'very constitutive ground of language', Jaynes goes on to coin 'metaphier' and 'metaphrand' as the two parts of a metaphor. (I. A. Richards had already done this, of course, in his 1936 *Philosophy of Rhetoric*, with the terms 'vehicle' and 'tenor'. And let's not even talk about Saussure, whose semantics had largely been invented by the ancient Stoics.) Science, declares Jaynes, like Vaihinger before him, is determined by metaphors, while

Even such an unmetaphorical-sounding word as the verb 'to be' was generated from a metaphor. It comes from the Sanskrit bhu, "to grow, or make grow," while the English forms 'am' and 'is' have evolved from the same root as the Sanskrit asmi, "to breathe."

A. S. Diamond, in his brilliant *Origin of Language*, reckoned the original of *am* and *asti* as 'to eat', noting the similarity of Latin *esse* (to be) / *esse* (to eat), and correlating food with life. In his 1690 *Essay*, Book 3, chapter 1, section 5, John Locke had asserted the 'sensible' (sensory) origin of all words:

SPIRIT, in its primary signification, is breath; ANGEL, a messenger: and I doubt not but, if we could trace them to their sources, we should find, in all languages, the names which stand for things that fall not under our senses to have had their first rise from sensible ideas.

Sadly, as Hans Aarsleff has pointed out, there is no sensible origin for the root of the word 'mind', 'mens' etc. And similarly, linguists have come up dud on the two roots of the *verbum abstractum*, es- and bheu- as Watkins lists them. Finally, Jaynes gets to consciousness itself, which he visualises as 'an analogy of what is called the real world. . . built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world'. Truth be damned, this is sublime stuff! Finally he introduces the 'paraphrand', or the body of associations and salient attributes of the metaphrand. This lets him write:

The map-maker and map-user are doing two different things. For the map-maker, the metaphrand is the blank piece of paper on which he operates with the metaphier of the land he knows and has surveyed. But for the map-user, it is just the other way around. The land is unknown; it is the land that is the metaphrand, while the metaphier is the map which he is using, by which he understands the land. And so with consciousness. Consciousness is the metaphrand when it is being generated by the paraphrands of our verbal expressions. But the functioning of consciousness is, as it were, the return journey. Consciousness becomes the metaphier full of our past experience, constantly and selectively operating on such unknowns as future actions, decisions, and partly remembered pasts, on what we are and yet may be. And it is by the generated structure of consciousness that we then understand the world.

So consciousness is sort of a map of reality, generated by language and used by memory, in a constant oscillation. Presumably Jaynes is riffing on, or perhaps just ripping off, that famous motto<>of Alfred Korzybski. Consciousness comes to be built up from a linguistic model of events via 'narratization', by which our actions are moulded into coherent patterns of cause and effect over time. (MacIntyre<>thinks this narrativity has been lost. Raminagrobis< into-memoried-...>agrees, sort of.)


Later, much later, Jaynes describes superstition as 'only a metaphier grown wild to serve a need to know'. This rather reminded me of a description of Elizabethan prose I once came across: 'the intense elaboration of the vehicle causes the tenor to recede uncomfortably close to disappearing altogether'. Both lines evoke a fault: the supererogation of the subaltern, by which the map is taken for the territory, the model extended too far. Thus Marx generalised from his time to all time; Freud from a few patients to all patients, and all symptoms. Wittgenstein had claimed something similar in the 1921 *Tractatus*:

There is no possible way of making an inference from one situation to the existence of another, entirely different situation. There is no causal nexus to justify such an inference. We cannot infer the events of the future from those of the present. Superstition [*Aberglaube*] is nothing but belief in the causal nexus.

(Our friend Yusef <> will be keen to learn Hitler's opinions on superstition, no doubt: 'Superstition, I think, is a factor one must take into consideration when assessing human conduct, even though one may rise superior to it oneself and laugh at it. It was for this reason, to give you a concrete example, that I once advised the Duce not to initiate a certain action on the thirteenth of the month. Such things are the imponderables of life, which one cannot afford to neglect, for those who believe in them are quite capable, at a moment of crisis, of causing the greatest consternation.')

The view of superstition presented by Jaynes and Wittgenstein has its roots in classical antiquity. Theophrastus simply defines<> *deisidaimonia* (superstition) as 'cowardice in regard to the supernatural'. But Plutarch, writing about 400 years later, develops<> *deisidaimonia*, literally a 'fear of the daemons', as manifest in a propensity to over-interpret natural signs: 'he who is afraid of the gods, is in fear of everything--the sea, the air, the sky, darkness, light, a call, silence, a dream'--'to the superstitious man, every infirmity of body, every loss of money, or loss of children, every unpleasantness or failure in political matters, are called "plagues from God," and "assaults of the demon"'. This is line with Plutarch's general approach to the world as a system of signs to be decoded: superstition is a failure to interpret signals, an inference beyond that which can be made, just as for modern thinkers it is a misconstrued model of reality.


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