The story of a quest to uncover the evolutionary history of consciousness from a leading theoretical psychologist.
We feel, therefore we are. Conscious sensations ground our sense of self. They are crucial to our idea of ourselves as psychic beings: present, existent, and mattering. But is it only humans who feel this way? Do other animals? Will future machines? Weaving together intellectual adventure and cutting-edge science, Nicholas Humphrey describes his fifty-year quest for answers: from his discovery of blindsight in monkeys and his pioneering work on social intelligence to breakthroughs in the philosophy of mind.
The goal is to solve the hard problem: to explain the wondrous, eerie fact of “phenomenal consciousness”—the redness of a poppy, the sweetness of honey, the pain of a bee sting. What does this magical dimension of experience amount to? What is it for? And why has it evolved? Humphrey presents here in full a new, plausible solution that phenomenal consciousness, far from being primitive, is a relatively late and sophisticated evolutionary development. The implications for the existence of sentience in nonhuman animals are startling and provocative.