The Primordial Emotions: The Dawning of Consciousness

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Oxford University Press, 2006 - Medical - 267 pages
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To understand what is happening in the brain in the moment you decide, at will, to summon to consciousness a passage of Mozart's music, or decide to take a deep breath, is like trying to "catch a phantom by the tail". Consciousness remains that most elusive of all human phenomena - one so mysterious, one that even our highly developed knowledge of brain function can only partly explain. This book is unique in tracing the origins of consciousness. It takes the investigation back many years in an attempt to uncover just how consciousness might have first emerged. Consciousness did not develop suddenly in humans - it evolved gradually. In 'The Primordial Emotions', Derek Denton, a world renowned expert on animal instinct and a leader in integrative physiology, investigates the evolution of consciousness. Central to the book is the idea that the primal emotions - elements of instinctive behaviour - were the first dawning of consciousness. Throughout he examines instinctive behaviours, such as hunger for air, hunger for minerals, thirst, and pain, arguing that the emotions elicited from these behaviours and desire for gratification culminated in the first conscious states. To develop the theory he looks at behaviour at different levels of the evolutionary tree, for example of octopuses, fish, snakes, birds, and elephants. Coupled with findings from neuroimaging studies, and the viewpoints on consciousness from some of the key figures in philosophy and neuroscience, the book presents an accessible and groundbreaking new look at the problem of consciousness.

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the idea and context
The definition of consciousness and selfawareness
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About the author (2006)

Derek Denton is the world authority on instinctive behaviour regulating apt intake of water and minerals - particularly salt. He was Founding Director of the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine at Melbourne University. His discoveries have been recognized by election to the National Academies of Science of France, Sweden, the United States and Australia and also the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Society (London). He was First Vice President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences and was a member of the Lasker Jury for 12 years. His previous books include 'The Hunger for Salt', described by Emeritus Professor John Pappenheimer of Harvard as 'the best example of integrative physiology to come out of the second half of the 20th century' and 'The PInnacle of Life', written for a general audience, and published by Flammarion (Paris), Harper Collins (USA), and Allen & Unwin (Australia).

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