Consciousness was a 'trouble-maker': On the general maladaptiveness of unsupported mental representation

Journal of Mind and Behavior 25 (1):33-56 (2004)
Consciousness, as a higher-order cognitive capacity allowing for the explicit representation of abstract mental states, might be the incidental byproduct of design features from other adaptive systems, such as those governing expansion of the frontal lobes in primates. Although such abilities may have occurred entirely by chance, the standardized entrenchment of this representational capacity in human cognition may have posed engineering dilemmas for natural selection in that consciousness could not be easily removed without disrupting the adaptive features of other design solutions. If so, then those organisms saddled with the burden of higher-order representation by the occurrence of these chance events were suddenly assaulted with a series of social problems previously unencountered by any other species in evolutionary history. Such consciousness-based problems constituted enormous selective pressure for generating ancestrally adaptive psychological programs designed to cope with them. Each of these design solutions was, by necessity, generated and progressively pruned over an extraordinarily short span of geological time. In addition, these programs ran into conflict with more ancient primate social adaptations — such as those underlying sexual coercion and violence — that did not evolve to be sensitive to the epistemic positions of others. These mosaic processes have likely resulted in selection for innumerable algorithmic properties driving human-specific behaviors which are both proximally and ultimately caused by consciousness. Consciousness by itself should be classified as maladaptive; what is adaptive are those psychological programs in place to support its incidental and problematic arrival in the human brain
Keywords Cognition  Consciousness  Evolution  Metaphysics  Psychology  Social
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