What is consciousness?

Hi, brilliant site.

What is human consciousness in your opinion and why did it evolve to the level it is at today if it allows us to go against our genes “wishes”?

Posted: June 7th 2012

George Locke

Genes reproduce themselves. That’s the essence of evolution. But evolution isn’t perfect. Our bodies fail all the time, so it’s no wonder that our brains/minds should also “fail”. If my wife and I decide not to have children, we’ve “failed” in evolutionary terms, but this is no more surprising than a burst appendix.

Consciousness is an emergent property of our brains. Self-awareness seems to be essential, but I don’t really know much more than that. In my more indulgently speculative moments, I suspect that our notion of “self” is a construct that unifies memories and experiences that have little intrinsic sameness (that is, “person” is an artificial category), but this may just be a hangover from my “all is one” new-agey youth.

Posted: July 13th 2012

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“What is consciousness” is a philosophical question, and I don’t find a lot of use in philosophical questions. I can say that it’s clearly an outgrowth of brain function, and it’s also clear that it was either selected for because it conferred a survival advantage or it is a byproduct of something else (perhaps intelligence in general) that conferred a survival advantage.

Posted: June 30th 2012

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