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consciousness | purposeful universe


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


Human consciousness is a puzzling phenomenon, and scientists are still striving to define and understand it. When scientists answer “What is consciousness?” their answer is often something like “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 we are learning more about consciousness every day and unfolding the mystery of its meaning.     

For instance, when asked to define consciousness, Simon Blackburn (Cambridge University) 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 because 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. 

Professor at Oxford Susan Greenfield 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.

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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 philosophical answers. The articles below explore the nature of human knowledge, our capacity for language, awareness, and proposed purposes of it all.

A crowded bookshelf.

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.

A colorful illustration of a brain.

Consciousness and the Brain

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

Black and white, swirly brain.

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.

A stack of books.
Quick Watches

Short Consciousness Videos

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

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