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Nietzsche, from the section The Four Great Errors in Twilight of the Idols:

The “inner world” is full of phantoms and illusions: the will being one of them. The will no longer moves anything, hence it does not explain anything — it merely accompanies events; it can also be completely absent. The so-called motives: another error. Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness, something shadowing the deed that is more likely to hide the causes of our actions than to reveal them. And as for the ego … that has become a fable, a fiction, a play on words! It has altogether ceased to think, feel, or will!

I was struck upon rereading Twilight of the Idols as to the prescience of Nietzsche’s remarks on consciousness. It has always been said that, in addition to his cultural-critical acumen, Nietzsche was a psychologist ahead of his time, pointing out the pernicious activity of the submerged unconscious lurking beneath the surface of the ego, but I can’t help but think that Nietzsche’s attack on the notions of ego, will, and spirit in this section partially anticipates another theoretical movement: namely, the deflationary consciousness of late 20th century theorists like Julian Jaynes.

the framework for Jaynes’ theory of Bicameralism is obviously lacking in Nietzsche, but this doesn’t necessitate opposition. The first several chapters of Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness don’t even deal with Bicameral theory, but with methodically dismantling our common-sense notions of how consciousness works. Learning, memory, thinking: these are all things that we immediately associate with conscious activity, but Jaynes does a fantastic job of showing how all of these things, and more besides, function just fine, and sometimes more efficiently, without consciousness. Nietzsche’s point about consciousness being an “accompanying event” or a “surface phenomenon” works in this same direction.

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