The study of the mind needs a Copernican shift in perspective – Pamela Lyon | Aeon Essays

On the origin of minds

The study of the mind needs a Copernican shift in perspective | Aeon Essays

On the origin of minds

Cognition did not appear out of nowhere in ‘higher’ animals but goes back millions, perhaps billions, of years

Pamela Lyon is an interdisciplinary visiting research fellow at the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University in Adelaide. She is currently writing a book based on the ideas in this essay.

Edited bySally Davies4,200 words

In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin draws a picture of the long sweep of evolution, from the beginning of life, playing out along two fundamental axes: physical and mental. Body and mind. All living beings, not just some, evolve by natural selection in both ‘corporeal and mental endowments’, he writes. When psychology has accepted this view of nature, Darwin predicts, the science of mind ‘will be based on a new foundation’, the necessarily gradual evolutionary development ‘of each mental power and capacity’.