In this paper, I attempt to provide a theoretical foundation for the evolutionary biology of consciousness as a research program by extracting and reconstructing fundamental assumptions that are shared by the theories of Feinberg and Mallatt, and Ginsburg and Jablonka. I propose three core postulates and a schematic model of animal consciousness. I then apply this model to empirical neurobiological knowledge in vertebrates to show that the enabling architecture of consciousness was established as the ground plan in the common ancestor of the vertebrates. By comparing the enabling architecture of consciousness implemented as ground plans in different taxa, we can develop a general theory of consciousness that is free from lineage-specific constraints.
Recently several prominent biologists and philosophers, including Feinberg and Mallatt, and Godfrey-Smith, have proposed evolutionary accounts of consciousness. Despite disagreements regarding the specifics, they all focused on the “primitive” form of consciousness and argued that its origin is much more ancient than previously believed. In this study, we examine these accounts based on their methodological grounds. Specifically, we examine whether one methodological criticism leveled against evolutionary psychology on the completeness of its explanations can be applied to Feinberg and Mallatt’s adaptation explanations. We conclude that their explanations fall short of being complete, but fare better than those advanced by evolutionary psychologists.
Interesting works on the evolutionary origins of consciousness have been published recently. They are interesting especially because they try to solve the hard problem of consciousness through the study of the evolutionary origins of consciousness. This paper critically examines one of these works, a book by Feinberg and Mallatt. Though it seems that they fail to offer a new and plausible solution to the hard problem of consciousness, studying evolutionary origins remains to be one of the most promising strategies for the naturalization of consciousness.