The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Evolution of Feelings

The British chemist Graham Cairns-Smith views consciousness as an evolution of elementary emotions.

First, a rudimentary system of feelings must have been born by accident. Then it must have proven to have evolutionary usefulness. Finally, from that rudimentary system, that was probably a very basic pain-pleasure system, more complex feelings evolved.

Initially, they may have been simple variations on the basic emotions of pain and pleasure (or a broad palette of feelings, from pleasant to unpleasant, as the subtlety of our five senses seem to imply). As they proved to be more and more useful for survival, more and more emotions may have popped up. Eventually the organism was flooded with emotions and something like a primitive "stream of consciousness" appeared. Verbal language simply put words to it. Language allowed us to express the stream of emotions in a more sophisticated way than the primitive facial language. Thought was born. With thought even more complex emotions were born. With language, thought and deep emotions, the conscious "i" was born.

Bottom line: consciousness originated from the evolution of feelings. Feelings begat consciousness, not the other way around.

Daniel Dennett thinks that the mind was created by the evolution of memes. Cairns-Smith thinks that the mind was created by the evolution of emotions. Where most thinkers see language as essential to the development of consciousness, Cairns-Smith views it as a mere tool to communicate emotions in a more complete way. Where most thinkers see emotion as a corollary to consciousness, Cairn-Smiths views it as the embryo of consciousness.


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