The arrival of individual self consciousness.

Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?

The part:
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

The whole:
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.

The majority of earthly life forms only developed so far along the path, some along ever narrowing, one-sided branches, while the balance of the whole is ever maintained. The  one-sided nature of some creatures is obvious. Giant pandas being a classic example. The hoof of a horse, the wing of an albatross, the middle finger of an aye-aye, are all much more specialised than the human hand. Ideally suited to their specific tasks. But this speciality becomes a hindrance to further novelty.


Like pacemakers in a race, various creatures forego their own advancement to give an outcome which was destined in the long run. And to achieve this outcome whereby nature can look upon herself with a spark of understanding, self-conscious individuals are a necessity. The sleeping beauty that is nature begins to wake up. Or has the dragon been poked with a stick?


The ubiquitous instinctive wisdom of nature which has been in control since physical life began is handing over its power to the still ripening human wisdom. And of course there is no guarantee that the newly sapient creatures that we are will be up to the task of handling this new found power responsibly. Adolescents can be unpredictable when they encounter novel freedom before they have gained the experience to deal with it.


Our minds are our exception within nature. And human exceptionalism rightly regarded is a privilege granted us by nature. It is not something for us to boast about; we did not get here by means of our own efforts. We did not wake of our own accord. This is a responsibility which was thrust upon us and we are now left in a position where we have a great deal of control over the destiny of earthly life. Will we gain sufficient maturity to enhance life or are we the seeds of earthly destruction?


The future will determine if our efforts turn out to be praiseworthy. We can claim no credit for getting to this point. Will we be considered worthy of credit for what follows? We haven’t made the best of starts but who would have expected otherwise.


162 thoughts on “The arrival of individual self consciousness.

  1. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: So students that attend lectures but don’t ask questions get nothing out of them?

    Alan Fox: My experience may be different from others. If the resources on-line (indeed, if there had been an on-line) were available when I was an undergraduate, I think I would have learned much more than I did in crowded lecture theatres and chasing books and papers that someone had already taken out from the library

    I’m sure you would have.

    i was simply pointing out the parallel between online videos and live lectures in response to your comment that in your opinion videos are a poor method of disseminating information. I find them a very useful addition to an authors written works.

    We both have different views on it. It’s not a big issue.

  2. CharlieM: That what is true?

    That “Human consciousness is not just different in scale from animal consciousness, it transcends animal consciousness, it is different in kind.”

    CharlieM: And what is the “I” that is not convinced?

    That would be lil’ ol’ me. Am i missing something?

    CharlieM: Here are a few thoughts on intentionality.[…] We see the world by means of the combination of sense impressions and the intentionality of our active minds.

    Yes, thank you. I get that intentionality is the “aboutism” of mental states, but that is not exclusive to humans. Animals also display directedness in that they are fearful of things or show affection towards others. Hence this cannot be a diagnostic feature of human mental states, right?

  3. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: We can discuss the concepts of consciousness, beauty and intelligence with each other. There is no evidence whatsoever that animals can do this.

    DNA_Jock: There is no evidence that Charlie can discuss these concepts, since he keeps changing the subject — in this case to communication abilities.

    Consciousness is a very broad subject.

    CharlieM: Do you think that a colony of gannets sitting on a rocky island somewhere will be enthusing over a beautiful sunset with each other?

    DNA_Jock: And what makes you think that they aren’t?

    Because experts studying the behaviour of these birds would no doubt have noticed the signs.

    I have been walking down the street and noticed that all the people seemed to be looking skyward, pointing and discussing something. I looked up and saw for myself the focus of their attention. Some joker of a pilot had rendered a recognisable image of an ejaculating penis in sky-writing. My attention was drawn by the behaviour of the crowd.

    If groups of gannets were in the habit of collectively enthusing over some feature in the sky I’m sure researchers would have picked up on it.

    CharlieM: So students that attend lectures but don’t ask questions get nothing out of them?

    DNA_Jock: One of the more impressive examples of the “so what you’re saying…” trope. Quick question, Charlie: did you honestly think that Alan was claiming that students who do not ask questions get nothing out of lectures? Based on what?

    Based on his criticism of online videos. But as I said it’s hardly worth spending time arguing about further.

  4. DNA_Jock: To revert to Alan’s point: if you are trying to sell an idea, product or service, do not expect your audience to sit through more than four minutes of video; ideally restrict your pitch to two minutes or less.
    If you really want me to sit through a 45 minute presentation (let alone 82 minutes!) then provide me with a transcript. Add key graphics if necessary. Then I can decide whether to invest time in watching the video.

    I am not selling anything and I don’t want you to do anything. If you are interested the video is available to watch, if you aren’t interested then don’t bother to watch it. The choice is yours and it should be an easy decision for you to make without feeling coerced.

  5. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: Here is my very rough summary of his arguments in the video

    Neil Rickert: Thank you for that useful summary.

    My conclusion: it is nonsense, so I need not waste my time watching it.

    That’s how it’s done. You don’t even think it warrants criticism so you’ve decided not to watch it, and thus there is nothing for me to argue or discuss about it with you..

  6. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: He has been following his interest in human nature for 30 years and concludes that consciousness cannot solely be attributed to neural activity (neuromania)

    Alan Fox: That unfortunately is a deal breaker. It’s an argument from ignorance that can only be salvaged by proposing what additional elements are needed to create consciousness

    Not really. We only know about neural activity by means of consciousness. In fact we can instigate neural activity by conscious means. And neural connections are formed by learning.

    We don’t determine through ignorance that neural activity is necessary but not sufficient for consciousness to occur. This is a reasonable conclusion from what we do know.

  7. CharlieM: You don’t even think it warrants criticism so you’ve decided not to watch it, and thus there is nothing for me to argue or discuss about it with you..

    The world is chock full of charlatans pushing bad ideas. And Raymond Tallis is one of them. Conservatives are often pushing ideas from Tallis. And, in the past, I have looked in detail at what he has said. But there’s a limit.

    There isn’t enough time to respond to every charlatan who comes along.

  8. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Darwinitus [sic] is a condition that regards human behaviour as having no essential difference from animal behaviour.

    Alan Fox: Well, again, the plain assertion fails without some idea of what differences those would be.

    He provides many examples with explanations of the differences in the video including feeding behaviour and learning behaviour.

  9. CharlieM: With matters of consciousness I can speak from experience as can you.

    This is equivocating on “experience”. We do experience, yes. But we can’t explain to ourselves how we experience. There’s a fundamental barrier in that we can’t explain ourselves to ourselves. Maybe, collectively, taking others first person experience and sharing but that falls prey to the blind men and the elephant. A sentient entity etc…

  10. CharlieM: We only know about neural activity by means of consciousness.

    Charlie, you keep using that word, consciousness as if it means something. I may have missed where you had a go at defining it.

  11. CharlieM: including feeding behaviour

    Yes, I got the analogy on feeding and dinner parties (they are so eighties now). not persuaded. Bower birds.


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