Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 13, No 3 (2017)

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The Cradle of Humanity: A Psychological and Phenomenological Perspective

Carlos Montemayor, Spencer Horne


We present an account of the evolutionary development of the experiences of empathy that marked the beginning of morality and art. We argue that aesthetic and moral capacities provided an important foundation for later epistemic developments. The distinction between phenomenal consciousness and attention is discussed, and a role for phenomenology in cognitive archeology is justified-critical sources of evidence used in our analysis are based on the archeological record. We claim that what made our species unique was a form of meditative and empathic thinking that made large-scale human cooperation possible through pre-linguistic, empathic communication. A critical aspect of this proposal is that the transformation that led to the dawn of our species was not initially driven by semantic or epistemic factors, although clearly, these factors increased the gap between us and other species dramatically later on. Our proposal suggests that recent philosophy of mind and psychology might have "epistemicized" phenomenal consciousness too much by construing it in terms of semantic content rather than by describing it in terms of empathic and meditative thinking. Instead of the prevailing approach, we favor the type of subjectivity that is fundamentally "other-involving" as essential, because on our account, a necessary condition for subjectivity is the empathic understanding of other individuals' psychology, not through inference or judgment, but through immediate conscious engagement.


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