Other Minds and the Origins of Consciousness

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Why are we conscious? What does consciousness enable us to do that cannot be done by zombies in the dark? This paper argues that introspective consciousness probably co-evolved as a "spandrel" along with our more useful ability to represent the mental states of other people. The first part of the paper defines and motivates a conception of consciousness as a kind of "double vision" – the perception of how things seem to us as well as what they are – along lines recently explored by Peter Carruthers. The second part explains the basic socioepistemic function of consciousness and suggests an evolutionary pathway to this cognitive capacity that begins with predators and prey. The third part discusses the relevance of these considerations to the traditional problem of other minds.
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Archival date: 2015-06-11
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