Two conceptions of consciousness and why only the neo-Aristotelian one enables us to construct evolutionary explanations

Harry Smit*, Peter Hacker

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Web of Science)


Descartes separated the physical from the mental realm and presupposed a causal relation between conscious experience and neural processes. He denominated conscious experiences ‘thoughts’ and held them to be indubitable. However, the question of how we can bridge the gap between subjective experience and neural activity remained unanswered, and attempts to integrate the Cartesian conception with evolutionary theory has not resulted in explanations and testable hypotheses. It is argued that the alternative neo-Aristotelian conception of the mind as the capacities of intellect and will resolves these problems. We discuss how the neo-Aristotelian conception, extended with the notion that organisms are open thermodynamic systems that have acquired heredity, can be integrated with evolutionary theory, and elaborate how we can explain four different forms of consciousness in evolutionary terms
Original languageEnglish
Article number93
Number of pages10
JournalHumanities & Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020

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