I am planning on writing a paper on what Sellars calls "the paradox of man's encounter with himself" (Sellars Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man 1962: 6). To quote Sellars in more detail:

"[...] I want to highlight [...] what might be called the paradox of man's encounter with himself, the paradox consisting of the fact that man couldn't be man until he encountered himself. [...] It's central theme is the idea that anything which can properly be called conceptual thinking can occur only within a framework of conceptual thinking in terms of which it can be criticized, supported, in short, evaluated. To be able to think is to be able to measure one's thoughts by standards of correctness, of relevance, of evidence. In this sense a diversified conceptual framework is a whole which, however sketchy, is prior to its parts, and cannot be construed as a coming together of parts which are already conceptual in character. The conclusion is difficult to avoid that the transition from pre-conceptual patterns of behaviour to conceptual thinking was a holistic one, a jump to a level of awareness which is irreducibly new, a jump which was the coming into being of man." (ibid.)

So basically I want to engage myself in theories and conceptions of how man first came to view himself as man.

Now the point of this question is that I have absolutely no clue of how I could find literature to this topic. Quite literally, I do not know what I am searching for. Usually, I would have an idea, say I'd knew the general concept or I'd search for the author I am associating the topic with. But neither do I have a nice catch-word/-phrase nor does the reception of Sellars notion here leads me anywhere.

So, does any literature or authors come to mind for you, that/who addresses this topic?


1 Answer 1


If you are looking for modern works, I believe the contemporary author Peter Russell has written on the subject (he approaches it from a metaphysical point of view), as has Daniel Dennett, but from a materialist point of view (meaning through neuropsychology).

The Phenomology of Spirit by Hegel discusses the evolution and nature of consciousness, so it may be useful for your purposes.

Fichte's Foundations of Natural Right addresses the nature and origin of consciousness from a social perspective (i.e. how self-consciousness in men relates to their society).

If you are interested in the implications of consciousness and its nature (although not its origin), I would strongly recommend Dostoyevsky's Notes From Underground, which reveals the nature of higher consciousness.

Other potentially useful sources could be Schopenhauer and Kant (although I am not certain of the extent they discuss the topic).

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