Consciousness, Origins

In Harold L. Miller Jr (ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage Publications. pp. 172-176 (2016)
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To explain the origin of anything, we must be clear about that which we are explaining. There seem to be two main meanings for the term consciousness. One might be called open in that it equates consciousness with awareness and experience and considers rudimentary sensations to have evolved at a specific point in the evolution of increasing complexity. But certainly the foundation for such sensation is a physical body. It is unclear, however, exactly what the physical requirements are for a “central experiencer” to emerge in the course of evolution. Some suggest that it would require a basic brain, others a central nervous system, and others stipulate only a cellular membrane. The open definition is most often assumed by the so-called hard sciences. The closed meaning of consciousness differentiates between a special sort of experience, i.e., conscious experience, and a special sort of awareness (i.e., self-awareness). This is the approach of psychoanalysis and psychology that accepts the existence of an unconscious mind. It is also the view of most phenomenological philosophers and psychologists (Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Lacan, etc.). This entry discusses several scientific and philosophical views of consciousness and its origins.

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Gregory Michael Nixon
Louisiana State University (PhD)


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