Skip to content
consciousness | purposeful universe


Understanding consciousness, the brain and language can lead us to a better understanding of the role of humans within our universe, and what order and purpose may exist in our lives.

What is Consciousness?

Human consciousness is a puzzling phenomenon, and scientists are still striving to define and understand it. When scientists answer the question “what is consciousness” their answer is often something along the lines of “We are not exactly sure.” Even the origins of the emergence of consciousness are seemingly a mystery. Some scientists theorize that it may have occurred 500 million years ago, while others staunchly espouse that it was much more recent. This implies that even now we are learning more about consciousness everyday and unfolding the mystery of its meaning.     

For instance, Simon Blackburn (Cambridge University), when asked to define consciousness, responded, “I probably wouldn't try to approach it by definition. I think that is just going to be a can of worms.” This is due to the fact that consciousness is difficult to empirically study as it varies depending upon subjective perspective. As such, when attempting to apply a standardized definition or metric to consciousness, one is often met with ambiguity. 

Susan Greenfield, Professor at Oxford, loosely defines consciousness as “the inner subjective state that no one else can hack into.” Another definition of consciousness is an individual's awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, memories and surroundings. Although animals possess a form of consciousness, humans can be observed to possess a higher form of consciousness which differentiates us. There are many implications involved in what distinguishes humans as the most conscious beings. To begin an understanding, one must look at consciousness from a plethora of different angles.

Sign up for emails

Join the Conversation

Join the community and receive enlightening news about consciousness, order in the universe and purpose in our lives.

The Philosophy and Science of Consciousness

In many respects, the question, “what is consciousness” is a philosophical one. To ponder the nature and origins of human consciousness, we must turn to our own intellects to provide an answer. The mystery of the meaning of consciousness is perhaps what prompted philosophy and science to begin with. For centuries man has looked to the stars and within himself only to wonder, how CAN I think? How DO I know? How is my consciousness tied to my ability to exercise free will? Such questions are best suited for answers under the philosophical perspective. The articles below explore the nature of human knowledge, our capacity for language, awareness, and proposed purposes of it all.

Origins of Human Consciousness

When did consciousness evolve? How has human consciousness changed over time? There are many possible theories that strive to answer these questions. The videos below discuss aspects of these questions.

Consciousness and the Brain

What is the relationship between the brain, the mind, and consciousness?

Consciousness and Language

Of the 10–14 million species currently living on Earth and the estimated 5 billion species now extinct, only human beings possess rationality and sophisticated language. Rationality and language as human characteristics appear to have emerged simultaneously and rapidly, and they seem to signify an ontological discontinuity between humans and other animals.

Watch Shorts

Short Consciousness Videos

Only have a minute? These short videos are packed with amazing facts and insights about consciousness.

Follow Along

For more consciousness content, follow the Purposeful Universe on Instagram