The Evolution of Consciousness: A Beautiful Theory

How did awareness come to be? For what reason was it created? My article focuses on neuropsychologist Nicholas Humphrey’s novel theory of mind.


Based on his findings, Humphrey believes that awareness evolved to provide us with a sense of purpose in life. Why else do animals and humans develop conscious feelings if unconscious awareness is enough for survival? Rather than seeing consciousness as an incidental consequence of brain activity, Humphrey argues that it is central to our motivations and psyches.

Conscious sensations inspire us, making many sensation-seeking pursuits like playing, exploring, and imagining possible. Because of these pursuits, we have evolved and prospered as a species. One more way conscious sensations improve our social relationships is by letting us draw on our experiences to comprehend other people’s emotions and motivations.

Color, smell, and sound are all aspects of phenomenal consciousness, but Humphrey contends that the more otherworldly and mysterious they are, the more critical the self becomes. The sensations we have enrich both our own and other people’s lives. That we exist, even in suffering, is “the great object of life,” as Byron put it. Life is meaningful because of the conscious experiences we have.

A key component is the importance of the individual self to our perceptual reality. A strong sense of identity is fundamental to phenomenal awareness and all its diverse and fascinating sensations. Based on our conscious experiences, which affect our desires and psyche, we are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Without awareness, both the self and life are rendered meaningless.

Multiple fields come together in Humphrey’s work, which incorporates philosophy, biology, and psychology elements. His varied background includes working as a literary journal editor and researching gorillas alongside Dian Fossey. Because of his interdisciplinary approach, he is able to examine consciousness from several perspectives and question established notions.

Humphrey’s theories on consciousness also challenge current trends. He contends that AI systems do not possess sentience, contrary to the views of many who anticipate the arrival of machine consciousness. Reptiles and insects, whose evolutionary pressures were likely too low to require the creation of conscious feelings, are among the animals whose sentience he casts doubt on.

A sensation of amazement and curiosity motivates Humphrey to investigate consciousness. In his view, the nature of consciousness is fascinating but not inherently cryptic. While scientists have yet to pin down exactly where consciousness began, Humphrey proposes his own idea that it involves feedback loops in the brain’s sensory and motor areas. Natural selection must have played a role in the evolution of consciousness, in his view, and the sensations it evokes are valuable in and of themselves.

According to Humphrey’s theory of consciousness, the capacity to feel is central to what gives life its purpose and pleasure. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, sensations drive us and allow us to discover the universe. They make it possible for us to do things that make us happy, to have meaningful relationships, and to understand and value the richness and diversity of the human condition.

Scholars are still arguing over Humphrey’s beliefs on consciousness. There are heated debates between scientists and philosophers on consciousness’s experiential and cognitive components. However, Humphrey argues that conscious sensations have the potential to profoundly alter our psyche and our perception of the world, in contrast to those who contend that consciousness only facilitates learning and decision-making.

Humphrey’s theory of consciousness clarifies the evolutionary relevance of conscious sensations. In the “soul niche,” he says, our species has found a new realm of potential where our capacity to feel things lets us learn more about ourselves, other people, and the environment. We improve our social connections and our chances of survival as a species by expanding and deepening our reservoirs of conscious sensation.

Finally, Humphrey’s theory of consciousness sheds light on the development and relevance of subjective experiences. He challenges conventional wisdom through his studies and discoveries, which show how consciousness may change our motivations, psychology, and worldview. Because of consciousness and all the sensations it contains, living is meaningful and opens our eyes to the wonders of existence. The wonders of consciousness are endless; therefore, let us celebrate and keep exploring them.

Please follow me for more thoughtful articles. Thank you!