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In search of the origins of consciousness

Birch, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0001-7517-4759 (2020) In search of the origins of consciousness. Acta Biotheoretica, 68 (2). 287 - 294. ISSN 0001-5342

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10441-019-09363-x


Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka: The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2019, 646pp, ISBN: 9780262039307 The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul is a landmark attempt to make progress on the problem of animal consciousness. Ginsburg and Jablonka propose a general cognitive marker of the presence of consciousness: Unlimited Associative Learning. They use this marker to defend a generous view about the distribution of consciousness in the natural world, on which a capacity for conscious experience is common to all vertebrates, many arthropods and some cephalopod molluscs. They use this inferred distribution to defend a view about the evolution of consciousness, on which it has evolved at least three times, first evolved at around the time of the Cambrian explosion (just over 500 million years ago), and was in fact the driving force behind that explosion. In this essay review, I reflect critically on the book’s central idea: the proposal that Unlimited Associative Learning provides a general marker of consciousness.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2019 12:57
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 16:27

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