When did consciousness first appear?

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As far as can be determined, consciousness is an on or off sort of thing. Following pure evolution, was one guy (or animal) suddenly born that could think and his parents couldn’t?

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Question Everythingâ„¢

Not sure…mine usually doesn’t kick in until around 10:00 a.m.

Mailman Fred

Or, when does a developing fetus develop consciousness?


All animals with brains have consciousness, but there is a difference in the level of consciousness. For instance Cat’s and Humans both have consciousness, but the ability of the human consciousness eclipses the Cat’s ability.


A very good question.
My theory is that consciousness, in the self-reflective sense (if that’s what you mean, as in “I’m here looking at the sunset and my name is OG”) probably didn’t occur until speech and possibly writing of some kind was invented.
If the sense of self comes from memory (people with brain damage in certain parts, have no identity to themselves), then speech and writing in some form would serve to create memory.
Probably human consciousness also produced the idea of a “soul”. Animals have no sense of their impending death nor, as far as we know, any aspirations for heaven or fear of hell, etc.

Martin (atheist)

It is hard to tell considering that many animals display conciousness. It is probably a variation in social creatures that just happens to become more and more prominent and become more and more abstract due to these variations creating more offspring.

Τι στο διάολο


Andrew H

@Laslo Kovac – Self-awareness has been demonstrated in dolphins and some of the higher primates so I don’t believe it can relate to language (at least not as we understand it) and certainly not writing.
That said, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is a terrific scifi novel (sorry!) that postulated that Enki was the first conscious human being and that before him humans were effectively intelligent automatons. Blindsight by Peter Watts is an utterly awesome exploration of what consciousness is and what its benefits and disadvantages might be.


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