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.

0

367 thoughts on “The arrival of individual self consciousness.

  1. This is my attempt to liven things up a bit. I thought I heard the dragon that is TSZ snoring 🙂

    +1
  2. An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

    Those of us who lack the luxury and ease of calling on the supernatural for explanations are forced to look at evolutionary pathways to explain the human condition. If you grant the evolutionary pathway to our nearest human cousins is plausible then we need only consider the changes since. Our likely ancestor Homo erectus had a brain not much smaller than we have today (1 kg compared to 1.4 kg) and going by shape and size of the hyoid bone, an ability to speak. The explosion in human population and niche construction happens when all the biological ducks are already in a row. And for some isolated populations (Amazon basin, New Guinea) it still hasn’t happened.

    +1
  3. graham2:
    I feel Im reading Harry Potter.

    That’s unfair. CharlieM’s speculative musings are nonsense. Harry Potter is garbage.

    0
  4. I don’t agree the word conscience is a accurate description. Instead its just we have a soul in the image of God. We are mini-Gods. Thats why we are so smart relative to fish.
    The soul is conncted to the mind/memory andalong with the spirit we do what we do. We don’t have brain much less a evolving from small to big. indeed in these days of small is brillient like in computers its a strange leftover from old times about weighing ‘brains” to figure out how smart they are. We simply have a memory/mind and that alone is the source of problems or temporary inferiority of babies. yet even a baby is already as smart as a adult. Just its memory is interfered with. this proven by those caees called child prodigys. yet actually they are just children in one thing or so that have the memory more accurate or triggered. not a prodigy but a sample proving the equation.
    So nobody ever evolved in brains.

    0
  5. Mung: The words of a faux philosopher, who’s own words amount to nothing more than speculative musings.

    That statement is a good fit for others here and elsewhere, not least yourself. (Me too 🤭).

    0
  6. Flint: I’m surprised you have read Harry Potter.

    I had a go once, borrowing one of the earlier novels from a young nephew twenty odd years ago. I failed to see what the fuss was about, didn’t finish it and haven’t read any more of Rowling’s work.

    0
  7. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM (from op): An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

    Alan Fox: Those of us who lack the luxury and ease of calling on the supernatural for explanations are forced to look at evolutionary pathways to explain the human condition.

    You have misunderstood my post if you think that I’ve invoked the supernatural in any part of it. Where do you see it?

    If you grant the evolutionary pathway to our nearest human cousins is plausible then we need only consider the changes since. Our likely ancestor Homo erectus had a brain not much smaller than we have today (1 kg compared to 1.4 kg) and going by shape and size of the hyoid bone, an ability to speak.

    Yes, physically we have changed very little since Homo erectus roamed the earth. Our major evolutionary leap has been in consciousness. The prehistoric human consciousness was a living picture consciousness. In my opinion prehistoric humans were not the grunting brutes that they have been made out to be. Their communication was more musical, more poetic and more pictorial. Pictorial art preceded written language. We think in the dead letter of empty words, they thought in meaningful pictures. Today our language is more exact, more precise, but we have lost much of the feeling that we instilled in the ancient people by the storytellers. Even when language eventually assumed a written form, the writing had a pictorial quality that more closely represented that which was being conveyed. Egyptian hieroglyphs has this quality. Our language is much more abstract.

    The explosion in human population and niche construction happens when all the biological ducks are already in a row. And for some isolated populations (Amazon basin, New Guinea) it still hasn’t happened.

    You are fond of using the word ‘niche’ as if every separate species has eked out its own narrow domain. We can see that giant pandas do indeed have a very narrow lifestyle aptly described as a niche. What would you say is the niche of humans? Can the lifestyles of humans as a distinct group be so narrowly clustered that they can be described as a niche?

    Do you think that the isolated tribes you speak about will be able to survive in their own niches unchanged by the onslaught of the modern world? Even if we were to do our best to help them maintain their isolated existence, eventually the younger generations within those communities would want a piece of the world ‘out there’ for themselves and their isolated way of life would become a thing of the past.

    0
  8. Kantian Naturalist:
    graham2: I feel I’m reading Harry Potter.

    Kantian Naturalist: That’s unfair. CharlieM’s speculative musings are nonsense. Harry Potter is garbage.

    Mandarin is nonsense to the average European. But that has everything to do with the average European and very little to do with the language.

    0
  9. Robert Byers:
    I don’t agree the word conscience is a accurate description. Instead its just we have a soul in the image of God. We are mini-Gods. Thats why we are so smart relative to fish.
    The soul is conncted to the mind/memory andalong with the spirit we do what we do. We don’t have brain much less a evolving from small to big. indeed in these days of small is brillient like in computers its a strange leftover from old times about weighing ‘brains” to figure out how smart they are. We simply have a memory/mind and that alone is the source of problems or temporary inferiority of babies. yet even a baby is already as smart as a adult. Just its memory is interfered with. this proven by those caees called child prodigys. yet actually they are just children in one thing or so that have the memory more accurate or triggered. not a prodigy but a sample proving the equation.
    So nobody ever evolved in brains.

    Apart from you, who used the word ‘conscience’?

    The wisdom of animals is witnessed in their configuration. The hydrodynamic properties of shark skin, the organs of transmittal and reception in the echo location system of animals such as cetaceans and bats, the drilling equipment of woodpeckers. The wisdom of humans is in our individual minds. Paltry compared with the wisdom of animals, but there nonetheless.

    Talk of God is for another discussion, not for this thread.

    0
  10. Mung:
    CharlieM: I thought I heard the dragon that is TSZ snoring

    Mung: Elizabeth may be snoring, but she’s no dragon

    Maybe a sphinx? She has that air of mystery.

    0
  11. Mung: The words of a faux philosopher, who’s own words amount to nothing more than speculative musings.

    That would hurt my feelings if I thought you had enough experience and knowledge to be a competent judge as to who is a faux philosopher and who is not.

    Flint: I’m surprised you have read Harry Potter.

    I’ve read all of the novels, just because of a certain FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) within the sci-fi & fantasy crowd. I read sci-fi all the time and fantasy a few times a year. But I never really liked the Harry Potter stuff.

    CharlieM: Mandarin is nonsense to the average European. But that has everything to do with the average European and very little to do with the language.

    I do not regard your post as nonsense as a result of not understanding the language in which it was written.

    0
  12. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: Mandarin is nonsense to the average European. But that has everything to do with the average European and very little to do with the language.

    Kantian Naturalist: I do not regard your post as nonsense as a result of not understanding the language in which it was written

    It’s not the language, it’s the meanings behind the words that has to be mutually understood and agreed upon.

    For example the symbol of the dragon has a certain consistency throughout human cultures and this is much more meaningful than imagining some actual scaly, fire breathing beast guarding a mound of precious metals and stones.

    I have previously used the word ‘supersensible’ and some people seemed to have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that I was using it to mean something like ‘supernatural’, which makes me think that they view these words as having equivalent meaning. I know that you wouldn’t make that mistake.

    0
  13. So this is not a thread about how consciousness came to be? Because that surely started many tens of millions of years ago, perhaps when some shrewlike mammal acquired the ability to see an image of its surroundings which included a representation of itself — am avatar, so to speak.

    Not in the great apes — that is far too late.

    0
  14. Joe Felsenstein: So this is not a thread about how consciousness came to be? Because that surely started many tens of millions of years ago, perhaps when some shrewlike mammal acquired the ability to see an image of its surroundings which included a representation of itself — am avatar, so to speak.

    Not in the great apes — that is far too late.

    No, it’s not a thread about how consciousness came to be. It’s about the arrival of individual self consciousness during the evolution of consciousness. Would your shrew-like creature have recognised itself in a reflection? Do present day shrews recognise their own reflection?

    In humans self-consciousness is the norm, whereas the demonstration of self-consciousness in animals is the exception and is confined to the most advanced creatures. We all know that there are different levels of consciousness because of our daily experiences. We sleep, we dream, we wake up. We lose our waking level of consciousness when we go to sleep and we only become aware of this lowered consciousness when we wake up from it.

    Evolution is the story of the waking of life, but even the most awake and aware life (us) is mostly still asleep. For instance we are asleep to the cellular processes taking place within our bodies. We do not experience, as they are happening, the birth and death of cells, the DNA replication, the protein formation and many other processes besides.

    We are only awake to a very small percentage of the activities that are going on around us, a major part of it does not enter our consciousness.

    0
  15. I declared the wing of the albatross to be one of those narrowly specialised features that hindered further novelty. And that has been demonstrated in the wings of birds in general.

    There have been secondary flightless birds around following the K-Pg extinction event approximately 66 million years ago. Throughout all of this time none of these birds have developed forelimbs with functional, multi-purpose digits as seen in other creatures such as primates. Since that time the mammalian forelimb has developed from an appendage that is useful for basic manipulation and grasping to one that can be used for visually conveying the intricacies of human language.

    Birds have never regained the functional digits in their forelimbs that had been lost due to specialization.

    0
  16. CharlieM: I declared the wing of the albatross to be one of those narrowly specialised features that hindered further novelty. And that has been demonstrated in the wings of birds in general.

    In the meantime, the albatross points to the brain of a human as one of those narrowly specialized features that hinders further novelty. The albatross mentions Donald Trump as an example of that loss of novelty.

    Honestly, CharlieM, you need to make a break from your anthropocentrism.

    0
  17. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: I declared the wing of the albatross to be one of those narrowly specialised features that hindered further novelty. And that has been demonstrated in the wings of birds in general.

    Neil Rickert: In the meantime, the albatross points to the brain of a human as one of those narrowly specialized features that hinders further novelty. The albatross mentions Donald Trump as an example of that loss of novelty.

    Honestly, CharlieM, you need to make a break from your anthropocentrism

    Novel features of the world that have come about through humans and their brains – ships, trains, cars, aircraft, rockets and satellites: refined fossil fuels, virtually indestructible plastics, kevlar, polluted atmospheres and oceans: and the world wide web, radio communication, mobile phones: and artificial body organs, IVF. organ transplants: musical instruments, self portraits, digital photography, movies, works of fiction, Donald Trump’s hair: and …………….

    Albatrosses do none of the things you mention, meanwhile humans display stuffed albatrosses in glass cases, monitor their behaviour, attach tracking devices to them, study their anatomy, DNA and population numbers, feature them in comedy sketches.

    Where is your justification for your petrelocentrism?

    0
  18. CharlieM: ships, trains, cars, aircraft, rockets and satellites: refined fossil fuels, virtually indestructible plastics, kevlar, polluted atmospheres and oceans: and the world wide web, radio communication, mobile phones: and artificial body organs, IVF. organ transplants: musical instruments, self portraits, digital photography, movies, works of fiction, Donald Trump’s hair: and …

    you forgot digital watches.
    Coming across as something of a Warty Bliggens…

    +2
  19. CharlieM: You have misunderstood my post if you think that I’ve invoked the supernatural in any part of it. Where do you see it?

    I sensed dualism in your mention of consciousness. If you agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity in the nervous system, then I did misunderstand.

    0
  20. CharlieM: Our major evolutionary leap has been in consciousness.

    Agreeing with Joe F that consciousness begins in the deep past. I see the leap forward in human capacity as cultural rather than biological.

    0
  21. CharlieM: Novel features of the world that have come about through humans and their brains –

    Many of the things that you mention are destroying our world. At least the albatross is not doing that.

    0
  22. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: You have misunderstood my post if you think that I’ve invoked the supernatural in any part of it. Where do you see it?

    Alan Fox: I sensed dualism in your mention of consciousness. If you agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity in the nervous system, then I did misunderstand.

    I don’t agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity. I do believe that physical and chemical activities accompanies human thinking. I do have a dual aspect in that I have a bodily component and a thinking mind but that doesn’t prevent me from being a unified whole.

    0
  23. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Our major evolutionary leap has been in consciousness.

    Alan Fox: Agreeing with Joe F that consciousness begins in the deep past. I see the leap forward in human capacity as cultural rather than biological

    In my opinion there has always been consciousness. Its manifestation in individual organisms is a different matter. A leap in consciousness can be at any stage in the evolution of life.

    So what about animal behaviour? Does that have nothing to do with evolution? Does evolution only apply to biology?

    0
  24. Joe Felsenstein: So this is not a thread about how consciousness came to be? Because that surely started many tens of millions of years ago, perhaps when some shrew-like mammal acquired the ability to see an image of its surroundings which included a representation of itself — am avatar, so to speak.

    If that were CharlieM’s interest, then he would be (presumably) be interested in books on the evolution of consciousness such as The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul by Ginsburg and Jablonka or Metazoa by Godfrey-Smith. But so far as I can tell, he isn’t.

    0
  25. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: Novel features of the world that have come about through humans and their brains –

    Neil Rickert: Many of the things that you mention are destroying our world. At least the albatross is not doing that

    Very true. Albatrosses don’t have the power to reap such destruction, humans do. Hence my talk of responsibility in the op.

    0
  26. CharlieM: It’s not the language, it’s the meanings behind the words that has to be mutually understood and agreed upon.

    I regard your post as nonsense because it relies on a premise which I find to be no only false, but obviously false: the assumption that human beings are less specialized than other animal species. The entire post weaves together hints and suggestions of truth (such as the idea that individual self-consciousness is an outcome of evolutionary processes) with falsity and speculation.

    Refuting it line by line would be a job for which I am not being paid and a distraction from work that does pay my bills — and which I also find far more rewarding.

    0
  27. Alan Fox: I sensed dualism in your mention of consciousness. If you agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity in the nervous system, then I did misunderstand.

    If you’re hoping for CharlieM’s views to make sense, you’ll be waiting a long time. He’ll copy and past multiple paragraphs from Steiner and Barfield, never explain any of it, and if you ask him any questions, he’ll just tell you to read even more of it.

    +1
  28. Kantian Naturalist:
    Joe Felsenstein: So this is not a thread about how consciousness came to be? Because that surely started many tens of millions of years ago, perhaps when some shrew-like mammal acquired the ability to see an image of its surroundings which included a representation of itself — am avatar, so to speak.

    Kantian Naturalist: If that were CharlieM’s interest, then he would be (presumably) be interested in books on the evolution of consciousness such as The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul by Ginsburg and Jablonka or Metazoa by Godfrey-Smith. But so far as I can tell, he isn’t

    I’m always interested in books like that no matter what thread I’m participating in.

    0
  29. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: It’s not the language, it’s the meanings behind the words that has to be mutually understood and agreed upon.

    Kantian Naturalist: I regard your post as nonsense because it relies on a premise which I find to be no only false, but obviously false: the assumption that human beings are less specialized than other animal species. The entire post weaves together hints and suggestions of truth (such as the idea that individual self-consciousness is an outcome of evolutionary processes) with falsity and speculation.

    Are you prepared to argue that giant pandas are not more specialized than humans? That there are various levels of specialization among organisms? Maybe we could start from a point of agreement. If we were to partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists, I presume you would agree with me that humans would fall within the generalists and giant pandas would fall within the specialists?

    Kantian Naturalist: Refuting it line by line would be a job for which I am not being paid and a distraction from work that does pay my bills — and which I also find far more rewarding.

    I wouldn’t want to force you to do anything that you feel to be a chore. You should do what gives you satisfaction.

    0
  30. Kantian Naturalist:
    Alan Fox: I sensed dualism in your mention of consciousness. If you agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity in the nervous system, then I did misunderstand.

    Kantian Naturalist: If you’re hoping for CharlieM’s views to make sense, you’ll be waiting a long time. He’ll copy and past multiple paragraphs from Steiner and Barfield, never explain any of it, and if you ask him any questions, he’ll just tell you to read even more of it

    I am flattered that my nonsense is linked to the nonsense of that “wisest” of the Oxford Inklings, Owen Barfield

    0
  31. CharlieM: I don’t agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity. I do believe that physical and chemical activities accompanies human thinking. I do have a dual aspect in that I have a bodily component and a thinking mind but that doesn’t prevent me from being a unified whole.

    There’s your supernatural right there, Charlie.

    0
  32. Kantian Naturalist: If you’re hoping for CharlieM’s views to make sense, you’ll be waiting a long time. He’ll copy and past multiple paragraphs from Steiner and Barfield, never explain any of it, and if you ask him any questions, he’ll just tell you to read even more of it.

    A friend moved away and left me some books he didn’t have space for. There was one by Steiner on bees which I glanced through. He must have written it while high as it is completely insane to the extent of making me laugh out loud.

    0
  33. CharlieM: Are you prepared to argue that giant pandas are not more specialized than humans?

    How would you make the measurement to compare specialisation?
    What units, for instance?

    0
  34. CharlieM: I am flattered that my nonsense is linked to the nonsense of that “wisest” of the Oxford Inklings, Owen Barfield

    It might have been better for Barfield if he’d never come across Steiner.

    0
  35. CharlieM: Do you think that the isolated tribes you speak about will be able to survive in their own niches unchanged by the onslaught of the modern world?

    Left alone, yes. Unless climate change, pollution, habitat loss interferes.

    Even if we were to do our best to help them maintain their isolated existence, eventually the younger generations within those communities would want a piece of the world ‘out there’ for themselves and their isolated way of life would become a thing of the past.

    How do you know this? There doesn’t appear to be any effort by youngsters to break out from North Sentinel Island.

    0
  36. CharlieM: Are you prepared to argue that giant pandas are not more specialized than humans? That there are various levels of specialization among organisms? Maybe we could start from a point of agreement. If we were to partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists, I presume you would agree with me that humans would fall within the generalists and giant pandas would fall within the specialists?

    No, I wouldn’t accept that.

    0
  37. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: I don’t agree that consciousness is equivalent to physical and chemical activity. I do believe that physical and chemical activities accompanies human thinking. I do have a dual aspect in that I have a bodily component and a thinking mind but that doesn’t prevent me from being a unified whole.

    Alan Fox: There’s your supernatural right there, Charlie

    What could be more natural than the mind? Thinking is the only thing that we experience directly. We would have no meaningful sense of the physical world without thinking. it is only through your thinking that you are capable of making a distinction between what you take to be natural and what you take to be supernatural.

    Whether or not your thinking gives an accurate judgement of what reality consists of is neither here nor there, thinking itself cannot be denied.

    0
  38. CharlieM, I’m not denying thinking. I’m claiming thinking can be explained as a physical and chemical process in nervous tissue.

    You seem to be suggesting an additional something. What is that?

    0
  39. Alan Fox:
    Kantian Naturalist: If you’re hoping for CharlieM’s views to make sense, you’ll be waiting a long time. He’ll copy and past multiple paragraphs from Steiner and Barfield, never explain any of it, and if you ask him any questions, he’ll just tell you to read even more of it.

    Alan Fox: A friend moved away and left me some books he didn’t have space for. There was one by Steiner on bees which I glanced through. He must have written it while high as it is completely insane to the extent of making me laugh out loud.

    Why does that not surprise me? My advice would be if you want to take more than a cursory glance at Steiner’s work, stick to his basic books.

    0
  40. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Are you prepared to argue that giant pandas are not more specialized than humans?

    Alan Fox: How would you make the measurement to compare specialisation?
    What units, for instance?

    You seem to be saying that you know all animals have niches but you don’t know what a niche is.

    Not everything needs to be measured, numbered or weighed. Some things are so obvious that no measuring is required. Imagine that someone showed you two trees and told you that one is one metre high and the other ten metres, would you need to measure them to know which was which?

    Now compare the habits, diet and range of humans and giant pandas. Are you telling me you cannot distinguish which one is more specialized?

    0

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.