Consciousness – by Andrés Moya

This post is also available in: Spanish

The awareness of oneself is self-awareness.

I call these properties self-awareness. I think we have particularities compared to other species. I’ll go back to the evolutionary frame. Every species has its own characteristics. When one see the tree of life, one sees that, if species are created, it’s because they have developed genuine, unique characteristics. Every species has them. If not, one wouldn’t be able to tell between them. One can tell between them because they have similar characteristics. And we, of course, have them, and probably exacerbated by comparison to other species. There’s still a lot of research to be done regarding self-awareness. Many organisms are aware of belonging to a certain species. In fact, they don’t attack members of their own species, but those of others; one could say those are innate mechanisms which lead them to recognize other members of their species, for example those with which they mate. Our species, even though there’s research to be done, is a species which is aware of who belongs to it or not, which is common to the rest of species, but it’s also aware of itself. That’s self-awareness. That consciousness of singularity, is it generalized to other species? It has to be researched. The separations aren’t always clear and maybe one can speak about a certain degree of self-awareness in other species which are philogenetically close to us, but not at the same level. Awareness of freedom, of death, to what extent can we say those are properties unique to us and not others? Probably some are. Language. Communication happens in many species, I would say in all of them, no matter how elementary. There are very mechanical forms of communication, of signaling. And other, mechanical too, very elaborated forms of communication between members of species. What we do goes beyond that, because language is more than communication. Language is a tool which is, probably, genuinely human. I say language, not communication. In the dynamics of life, our species has evolved unique characteristics. A very important one is self-awareness. It’s a double-edged sword, as Dawkins says. It’s a great tool for saving those replicators, our genes. Dawkin’s message is that it’s a great evolutionary invention that genes have created beings which are able to think, since they are good systems that allow for the transmission of the replicators we have inside, which are the genes. In The selfish gene, he says we are slaves to our own genes and we’re not willing to recognize it because this property, self-awareness, has been generated in us which is apparently over them. This way they make sure they can be transmitted, because being self-aware leads you to say you’d like to stay alive, leave an offspring, which deep down means passing forward your replicators. I’m not sure if it is a good thesis, of course, there’s no way to prove it, but it’s quite interesting.

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