Evolutionary advantages of inter-subjectivity and self-consciousness through improvements of action programs (2010)

Evolutionary advantages of consciousness and intersubjectivity are part of current philosophical debates on the nature of consciousness. Both are linked and intersubjectivity is sometimes considered as a form of consciousness [1]. Regarding the evolution of consciousness, studies tend to focus on phenomenal consciousness [2]. We would like here to bring the focus on self-consciousness and continue the build up of a corresponding evolutionary scenario. We also propose to introduce a possible evolutionary link between self-consciousness and phenomenal consciousness. Our starting point is the evolutionary scenario based on the evolution of intersubjectivity that goes thru the identification with conspecifics at pre-human primate time frame [3, 4, 5]. The scenario considers that such identification with conspecifics brought the non self-conscious auto-representation carried by our prehuman primate ancestors to merge with the representations of conspecifics. The latter transferred to the auto-representation the characteristics of an entity existing in the environment, and by this way introduced some first elements of self-consciousness for our pre-human ancestors. In addition, an anxiety increase coming from the identification with suffering or endangered conspecifics produced an evolutionary engine based on anxiety limitation. We want here to complement this evolutionary approach by introducing the improvement of action programs as a contributor to the evolutionary advantages of intersubjectivity and self-consciousness. We look at the possibility for a subject to improve the action programs that conspecifics implement. The performance of identification with conspecifics allows the subject to consider that errors made by conspecifics are potentially her own errors, and consequently allows the subject to correct the errors of conspecifics for her own benefit. We describe the process of non successful action identification from the perspective of an observer and present the synergetic action program improvements with their contribution to the evolution of intersubjectivity and self-consciousness. We add this contribution to the existing evolutionary scenario on self-consciousness and introduce a possible evolutionary link between self-consciousness and phenomenal consciousness. We use for that the relation existing between phenomenal consciousness and pre-reflexive self-consciousness [6] and propose to link the latter to the proposed evolutionary nature of self-consciousness. We finish by summarizing the points addressed and by introducing some possible continuations.
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