Plato_Aristotle


6 Why is conscious self, though produced by adaptive evolution, so bewildering?

As partially considered above (see question 4), the human ability to think grew up driven by the action that the evolutionary mechanisms exerted during the assembling of the neural system. The path followed was based on the building of subjectivity, with its subserving instruments and concepts, like soul, sensation, will; according to these, the 'internal' as well as the 'external' world (animism) were interpreted. The results worked well enough for long times. Weakness and inconsistencies that the approach implied were counteracted by the desire to receive and accept whatsoever explanations descended from authority, or, in the case of these latter, the impulse to provide them; the shared beliefs were then firmly and uncritically defended. This was the product of adaptive evolutionary mechanisms as well, with the primary function of coordinating and unifying the social aggregate. A rather stable situation resulted, with limited room for internal conflicts and doubts.

It has been said, however, that the evolutionary process conforms to the principle of sufficiency, not of perfection, and its results may become poorly compatible with newly appearing environmental factors. In such cases, serious inadequacies may manifest themselves inside previously adequate and functional resources. For humans, the cultural novelties have a particular relevance in this sense.

Thus, when the canons of modern scientific knowledge developed, they entered into progressive conflict with the existing apparatus aimed at interpreting reality. Profound contrasts were generated, not only within the single psyche, but also between individuals and communities. Eventually, the scientific approach prevailed as to interpretation of the external reality, but the situation remained mixed in the case of the self, with an enduring, disharmonic cohabitation of concepts and instruments linked to one and the other domain.

Solving these discrepancies is an important and difficult task facing present times. Besides an overturning of the subjective conceptual apparatus, it will require a critical revision of the scientific approach and criteria, to make them adequate to provide a satisfying answer to the question posed.

back