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Complexity and the Evolution of Consciousness

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis article introduces and defends the “pathological complexity thesis” as a hypothesis about the evolutionary origins of minimal consciousness, or sentience, that connects the study of animal consciousness closely with work in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. I argue that consciousness is an adaptive solution to a design problem that led to the extinction of complex multicellular animal life following the Avalon explosion and that was subsequently solved during the Cambrian explosion. This is the economic trade-off problem of having to deal with a complex body with high degrees of freedom, what I call “pathological complexity.” By modeling the explosion of this computational complexity using the resources of state-based behavioral and life history theory we will be able to provide an evolutionary bottom-up framework to make sense of subjective experience and its function in nature by paying close attention to the ecological lifestyles of different animals.</jats:p>


Funder: University of Sydney


50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 5002 History and Philosophy Of Specific Fields

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Biological Theory

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC