Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul

Today's post is by Eva Jablonka (right) and Simona Ginzburg (left). 

Ginsburg is a neurobiologist who retired from the Open University of Israel, where she headed the MA Program in Biological Thought. Her recent work focuses on the evolution of early nervous systems and the evolutionary transitions to consciousness in the animal world.

In this post they introduce their new book, The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2019).

The gap between third-person, scientific, publically shared investigations, such as the neuroscience of echolocation, and first-person subjective experiencing such as echolocation-based subjective perception, has been described as an explanatory gap. Although one may know about echolocation, one does not know what it is like to perceive the world through echolocation. It is commonly argued that the explanation of the subjective feel of echolocation through the third person science of echolocation is a “hard problem”, intractable by science as we know it.

We challenge this assumption. We believe that in theory, one can, through third-person scientific investigations, attain a deep understanding of the biological dynamics of perception through echolocation (for example), which can allow one to implement it in one’s brain by using sophisticated cognitive technologies, and experience what it is like. But how can one get to this deep, bridging, understanding? In our book, The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul, we try to uncover the biological nature of experiencing by using an evolutionary approach. We suggest that the nature of consciousness, like the nature of life, can be revealed by studying its evolutionary origins.