The nature of primary consciousness. A new synthesis

Todd E. Feinberg, Jon Mallatt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


While the philosophical puzzles about "life" that once confounded biology have all been solved by science, much of the "mystery of consciousness" remains unsolved due to multiple "explanatory gaps" between the brain and conscious experience. One reason for this impasse is that diverse brain architectures both within and across species can create consciousness, thus making any single neurobiological feature insufficient to explain it. We propose instead that an array of general biological features that are found in all living things, combined with a suite of special neurobiological features unique to animals with consciousness, evolved to create subjective experience. Combining philosophical, neurobiological and evolutionary approaches to consciousness, we review our theory of neurobiological naturalism that we argue closes the "explanatory gaps" between the brain and subjective experience and naturalizes the "experiential gaps" between subjectivity and third-person observation of the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Evolution
  • Explanatory gaps
  • Hard problem
  • Neurobiological naturalism
  • Primary consciousness
  • Subjectivity


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