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Evolution as Connecting First-Person and Third-Person Perspectives of Consciousness

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Document pages: 9 pages

Abstract: First-person and third-person perspectives are different items of human consciousness.Feeling the taste of a fruit or being consciously part of a group eating fruits call for different perspectives ofconsciousness. The latter is about objective reality (third-person data). The former is about subjectiveexperience (first-person data) and cannot be described entirely by objective reality.We propose to look at how these two perspectives could be rooted in an evolutionary origin of humanconsciousness, and somehow be connected.Our starting point is a scenario describing how evolution could have transformed a non self-consciousauto-representation into a conscious self-representation (Menant 2006). The scenario is based on theperformance of inter-subjectivity existing among non human primates (Gardenfors 2006). A key item of thescenario is the identification of the auto-representation of a subject with the representations that the subjecthas of her conspecifics, the latter feeding the former with the meaning: “existing in the environment”.So during evolution, pre-human primates were brought to perceive their auto-representation as existing inthe environment. Such process could have generated the initial elements of a conscious self-representation.We take this scenario as providing a possible rooting of human consciousness in evolution.We develop here a part of this scenario by expliciting the inward and outward components of the nonself-conscious auto-representation.Inward components are about proprioception and interoception (thirst, pain, …). Outward components coverthe sensory information relative to the perception of the body (seen feet, … ) and of its effects on theenvironment.We consider that the initial elements of a conscious self-representation have been applied to both inward andoutward components of the auto-representation. We propose that the application to inward components madepossible some first-person information, and that the application to outward components brought up third-personinformation. Relations between the two perspectives are highlighted.Such approach can root first-person and third-person perspectives in the same slot of human evolution.We conclude by a summary of the above and introduce a possible application of this approach to the conceptsof bodily self and of pre-reflexive self-consciousness (Legrand, 2006).

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