Consciousness results when communication modifies the form of self-estimated fitness


The origin and development of consciousness is poorly understood. Although it is clearly a naturalistic phenomenon evolved through Darwinian evolution, explaining it in terms of physicochemical, neural, or symbolic mechanisms remains elusive. Here I propose that two steps had to be taken in its evolution. First, living systems evolved an intrinsic goal-directedness by internalizing Darwinian fitness as a self-estimated fitness. The self-estimated fitness participates in a feedback loop that effectively produces intrinsic meaning in the organism. Second, animals with advanced nervous systems evolved a special form of communication that modifies the way each partner estimates fitness. The resulting change in intrinsic meaning is experienced subjectively as a primary form of consciousness. This primary form is subsequently used to generate, partly through internalized dialogue, more complex forms of consciousness, such as consciousness of the natural and social worlds, consciousness of the self, and language-dependent forms of consciousness. An updated version of the theory in this paper can be found as Chapter 12 ('Consciousness') in my book 'The estimator theory of life and mind: how agency and consciousness can emerge', see VANTET-8 at philpapers



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J. H. van Hateren
University of Groningen

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The origin of agency, consciousness, and free will.J. H. van Hateren - 2015 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4):979-1000.

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