This book is a tour-de-force on how human consciousness may have evolved. From the "phantom pain" experienced by people who have lost their limbs to the uncanny faculty of "blindsight," Humphrey argues that raw sensations are central to all conscious states and that consciousness must have evolved, just like all other mental faculties, over time from our ancestorsodily responses to pain and pleasure. '.
How is consciousness possible? What biological purpose does it serve? And why do we value it so highly? In Soul Dust, the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, a leading figure in consciousness research, proposes a startling new theory. Consciousness, he argues, is nothing less than a magical-mystery show that we stage for ourselves inside our own heads. This self-made show lights up the world for us and makes us feel special and transcendent. Thus consciousness paves the way for spirituality, and allows us, (...) as human beings, to reap the rewards, and anxieties, of living in what Humphrey calls the "soul niche." Tightly argued, intellectually gripping, and a joy to read, Soul Dust provides answers to the deepest questions. It shows how the problem of consciousness merges with questions that obsess us all--how life should be lived and the fear of death. Resting firmly on neuroscience and evolutionary theory, and drawing a wealth of insights from philosophy and literature, Soul Dust is an uncompromising yet life-affirming work--one that never loses sight of the majesty and wonder of consciousness. (shrink)
The identity of conscious states and brain states must remain a mystery until we find a way of characterising both sides of the equation in terms that have the same ‘dimensions’. In this paper I stress the need for ‘dual currency concepts’ that not only are but can be seen to be as appropriate for talking about, say, the experience of pain as for talking about the corresponding working of the brain. In the light of evolutionary theory I make a (...) radically new proposal for what the common dimension is, centred on the idea of ‘authorship’. (shrink)
In English we use the word “invention” in two ways. First, to mean a new device or process developed by experimentation, and designed to fulfill a practical goal. Second, to mean a mental fabrication, especially a falsehood, designed to please or persuade. In this paper I argue that human consciousness is an invention in both respects. First, it is a cognitive faculty, evolved by natural selection, designed to help us make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. But then, second, it (...) is a fantasy, conjured up by the brain, designed to change the value we place on our existence. (shrink)
_Raritan: A Quarterly Review_ , IX, 68-98, Summer 1989. Reprinted (with footnotes), _Occasional Paper #8_ , Center on Violence and Human Survival, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, 1991; Daniel Kolak and R. Martin, eds., _Self & Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues_ , Macmillan, 1991.
It is the ambition of evolutionary psychology to explain how the basic features of human mental life came to be selected because of their contribution to biological survival. Counted among the most basic must be the subjective qualities of conscious sensory experience: the felt redness we experience on looking at a ripe tomato, the felt saltiness on tasting an anchovy, the felt pain on being pricked by a thorn. But, as many theorists acknowledge, with these qualia, the ambition of evolutionary (...) psychology may have met its match. Everyone agrees that a trait can only contribute to an organism's biological survival in so far as it operates in the public domain. Yet almost everyone also agrees that the subjective quality of sensory experience is (at least for all practical purposes) private and without external influence. Then, maybe we must either concede that the subjective quality of sensations cannot after all have been determined by selection (even if this is theoretically depressing) or else demonstrate that the quality of sensations is not as private as it seems to be (even if this is intuitively unconvincing). No. I believe neither of these solutions to the puzzle is in fact the right one. I argue instead that the truth is that the quality of sensations has indeed been shaped by selection in the past, despite the fact that it is today effectively private. And this situation has come about as a result of a remarkable evolutionary progression, whereby the primitive activity of sensing slowly became "privatized" - that is to say, removed from the domain of overt public behavior and transformed into a mental activity that is now, in humans, largely if not exclusively internal to the subject's mind. (shrink)
I said that the cure itself is a certain leaf, but in addition to the drug there is a certain charm, which if someone chants when he makes use of it, the medicine altogether restores him to health, but without the charm there is no profit from the leaf.
Sensations represent our subjective 'take' on sensory stimulation — how we feel about red light falling on the retina, salt dissolving on the tongue, a thorn piercing the skin. They tell — in the language of phenomenal properties -- what the experience is like for us. In so far as they represent the reality of this subjective relationship, they cannot be said to be illusory. The relationship, magical as it may seem, is not being misrepresented as something it is not. (...) If anything, it is being represented as something 'super-real'. (shrink)
Abstract. A rhesus monkey, Helen, from whom the striate cortex was almost totally removed, was studied intensively over a period of 8 years. During this time she regained an effective, though limited, degree of visually guided behaviour. The evidence suggests that while Helen suffered a permanent loss of `focal vision she retained (initially unexpressed) the capacity for `ambient vision.
Mankind as a species has little reason to boast about his sensory capacities. A dog's sense of smell, a bat's hearing, a hawk's visual acuity are all superior to our own. But in one respect we may justifiably be vain: our ability to see colours is a match for any other animal. In this respect we have in fact surprisingly few rivals. Among mammals only our nearest relatives, the monkeys and apes, share our ability – all others are nearly or (...) completely colour-blind. In the animal kingdom as a whole colour vision occurs only in some fishes, reptiles, insects and birds. (shrink)
The emergence of cave art in Europe about 30,000 years ago is widely believed to be evidence that by this time human beings had developed sophisticated capacities for symbolization and communication. However, comparison of the cave art with the drawings made by a young autistic girl, Nadia, reveals surprising similarities in content and style. Nadia, despite her graphic skills, was mentally defective and had virtually no language. I argue in the light of this comparison that the existence of the cave (...) art cannot be the proof which it is usually assumed to be that the humans of the Upper Palaeolithic had essentially ‘modern’ minds. The article includes peer commentary by Paul Bahn, Paul Bloom, Uta Frith, Ezra Zubrow, Steven Mithen, Ian Tattersall, Chris Knight, Chris McManus and Daniel Dennett , with response by Nicholas Humphrey. [Owing to the number of illustrations, the full text for this file is in excess of 1 Mb. .]. (shrink)
The theory presented here is a near neighbour of Humphrey's theory of sensations as actions. O'Regan & Noë have opened up remarkable new possibilities. But they have missed a trick by not making more of the distinction between sensation and perception; and some of their particular proposals for how we use our eyes to represent visual properties are not only implausible but would, if true, isolate vision from other sensory modalities and do little to explain the phenomenology of conscious experience (...) in general. (shrink)
Human beings are not only the most sociable animals on Earth, but also the only animals that have to ponder the separateness that comes with having a conscious self. The philosophical problem of ‘other minds’ nags away at people’s sense of who—and why—they are. But the privacy of consciousness has an evolutionary history—and maybe even an evolutionary function. While recognizing the importance to humans of mind-reading and psychic transparency, we should consider the consequences and possible beneﬁts of being—ultimately—psychically opaque.
And Jesus said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God... There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or (...) children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (shrink)
The sensation of red light falling on your eyes has something in common with the experience of looking at a cartoon in the New Yorker. The phenomenal quality of the sensation and the funniness of the joke are both properties of your subjective take on an external event and both arise in two steps. With sensations, your brain responds to signals from bodily sense organs with an internalized evaluative response; your mind reads this response and represents what it's like as (...) the subjective property of redness. With jokes, the cartoonist creates a clever drawing; your mind takes in the drawing and represents what it's like as the subjective property of funniness. This analogy -- deliberately deflationary -- helps elucidate the nature of phenomenal consciousness and its neural correlates, and exposes the 'hard problem' as a conceptual error. (shrink)
Block's notion of P-consciousness catches too much in its net. He would do better to exclude all states that do not have a sensory component. I question what he says about my work with the “blind” monkey, Helen.
One day someone will write a book that explains consciousness. The book will put forward a theory that closes the “explanatory gap” between conscious experience and brain activity, by showing how a brain state could in principle amount to a state of consciousness. But it will do more. It will demonstrate just why this particular brain state has to be this particular experience. As Dan Lloyd puts it in his philosophical novel, Radiant Cool: “What we need is a transparent theory. (...) One that, once you get it, you see that anything built like this will have this particular conscious experience.”1. (shrink)
Dreaming can provide a marvelous opportunity for the “playful” exploration of dramatic events. But the chance to learn to deal with danger is only a small part of it. More important is the chance to discover what it is like to be the subject of strange but humanly significant mental states. [Revonsuo].
Response to commentaries on ‘How to Solve the Mind Body Problem’ by Andy Clark, Daniel Dennett, Naomi Elian, Ralph Ellis, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Stevan Harnad, Natika Newton, Christian de Quincey, Carol Rovane and Robert van Gulick.
Human beings begin life as quadrupeds, crawling on all fours, but none has ever been known to retain this gait and develop it into a proficient replacement for adult bipedality. We report the case of a family in which five siblings, who suffer from a rare form of cerebellar ataxia, are still quadrupeds as adults - walking and running on their feet and wrists. We describe the remarkable features of this gait, discuss how it has developed in the members of (...) this family, and consider whether a similar gait may have been used by human ancestors. (shrink)
visually or directly by hand 3,3•4, and the `weighing' of half-inch "The apparent weight of colours . Pictures are often said to circles of coloured paper at either end of a simulated balance have a centre of gravity, perhaps determined by the way the..
William Paley in his famous statement in 1800 of the Argument from Design, imagined that he found a watch lying on a heath and set to wondering how it came to be there. “The inference is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which.
What unites the many selves that constitute the human mind? How is the self-binding problem solved? I argue that separate selves come to belong together as one Self as a result of their dynamic participation in creating a single life, rather as the members of an orchestra come to belong together as a result of their jointly creating a single work of music.
I am looking at my baby son, as he thrashes around in his crib, two arms flailing, hands grasping randomly, legs kicking the air, head and eyes turning this way and that, a smile followed by a grimace crossing his face. . . And I’m wondering: what is it like to be him? What is he feeling now? What kind of experience is he having of himself?
‘The shamanic context of cave art is attested by a number of features’, Michael Winkelman writes (p.6); and, scarcely pausing for breath, he proceeds to reel off as if they were matters of established fact a list of co njectures about the authorship and meaning of ice-age cave paintings. We are t o conclude, without question apparently, that ‘cave art images represent shamanic activities and altered states of consciousness, and the subterranean rock art sites were used for shamanic vision questing’ (...) (p. 7). Well, may be. The shaman hypothesis is certainly an intriguing one; and David Lewis-Williams, in particular, has made a plausible case for it. Yet my own first reaction is: not so fast. For one thing, I myself, in the pages of this Journal a few years ago, presented evidence which – to begin with, anyway – suggests that any such interpretation has to be complet ely mistaken. (shrink)
The hard problem of consciousness is to explain the experience of qualia. But everything gets easier once we realise that what has to be explained is not how qualia can exist as objective entities but rather why the conscious subject should believe that they exist. This essay lays out a programme for doing this. It makes radical proposals as to how the “qualia illusion” is created, and why sustaining this illusion is biologically adaptive.
Scientists are generally more moral, and moralists more scientific, than Knobe suggests. His own experiments show that people, rather than making unscientific judgements about the moral intentions of others, are behaving as good Bayesians who take account of prior knowledge.