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Panksepp, J. (2000). The Cradle of Consciousness: A Periconscious Emotional Homunculus?: Commentary by Jaak Panksepp. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):24-32.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):24-32

The Cradle of Consciousness: A Periconscious Emotional Homunculus?: Commentary by Jaak Panksepp

Jaak Panksepp

On the Affective Evolution of Consciousness

Crick and Koch provide a frank and refreshing view of the current status of consciousness studies: after a great deal of philosophical debate (Block, Flanagan, and Guzeldere, 1997) the mystery of consciousness abides, and the only way to lift the veil is through novel theoretically oriented neuropsychological inquiries. As Crick and Koch put it: radically new ideas may be necessary and I write this essay with that perspective in mind. They also follow their own advice, and toy with the idea that some type of unconscious, neurally instantiated homunculus provides an essential substrate for the emergence of consciousness within higher brain activities. I am in deep sympathy with such an approach (Panksepp, 1998a, b), and would like to push it further in a direction that Crick

and Koch acknowledged but intentionally avoid: the possibility that some type of emotional “feelings” may lie at the core of human and animal consciousness. There is much to commend this idea, but it is radical (at least for the present Zeitgeist), deeply evolutionary, and not accompanied by any established standards of scientific or philosophic discourse. Thus, affect remains a most difficult topic to discuss/dissect in neuroscientifically, not to mention psychoanalytically, meaningful ways (Panksepp, 1999a; Solms and Nersessian, 1999a). In other words, by some paradoxical quirk of tradition, since Freud's (1923, 1940) penetrating discussions of the topic ended, emotions have been ignored in consciousness studies as if they were some type of vestigial unconscious flotsam as opposed to one of the foundational issues of mind and its conscious manifestations.

As Crick and Koch note, many others have passingly entertained the idea, but it has not yet emerged as a frontrunner in brain and consciousness studies.

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