Publication 1899

Varela F. J. (1971) Self-consciousness: Adaptation or epiphenomenon?. Studium Generale 24: 426–439. Fulltext at
This paper is an attempt to arrive at a species-specific characterization of human consciousness by considering its value as a biological adaptation. The analysis considers conscious phenomena in animals to motivate the distinction between self-consciousness and consciousness; the distinction is substantiated with neurological data. The relation between self-consciousness and language is considered in the light of the evolution of human language. Finally, a mechanism is postulated, based on current neurobiological knowledge, which makes it possible to account for self-consciousness as an epiphenomenon of language.

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