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J Hist Neurosci. 2010 Apr 8;19(2):105-20. doi: 10.1080/09647040903504781.

Darwin's unsolved problem: the place of consciousness in an evolutionary world.

Author information

  • Vision Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK. c.u.m.smith@aston.ac.uk

Abstract

"How does consciousness commence?" When Darwin set about developing his evolution theory on his return from the Beagle circumnavigation in 1836, he quickly realized that one major problem was, precisely, the existence of "mind" in a material world. This paper reviews his early struggles with this problem and pursues it into his later writings, especially the 1872 Expression of Emotions and in the work of his disciple G. J. Romanes. In the 1871 Descent of Man, Darwin admits defeat, writing that "In what manner the mental powers were first developed in the lowest organisms is as hopeless an enquiry as how life itself first originated. These are problems for the distant future" (p. 100). That "distant future" has now arrived and plausible answers to Darwin's first question have been developed. The bicentennial celebrations provide an opportunity to ask again whether we are any closer to a solution of the second. They also provide an opportunity to emphasize Darwin's lifelong interest in the relationships between mind, brain, and behavior.

PMID:
20446156
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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