Jon M. Mallatt

Jon M. Mallatt is Clinical Associate Professor in the WWAMI Medical Education Program at the University of Washington and the University of Idaho and coauthor (with Todd E. Feinberg) of The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience (MIT Press).

  • Consciousness Demystified

    Consciousness Demystified

    Todd E. Feinberg and Jon M. Mallatt

    Demystifying consciousness: how subjective experience can be explained by natural brain and evolutionary processes.

    Consciousness is often considered a mystery. How can the seemingly immaterial experience of consciousness be explained by the material neurons of the brain? There seems to be an unbridgeable gap between understanding the brain as an objectively observed biological organ and accounting for the subjective experiences that come from the brain (and life processes). In this book, Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt attempt to demystify consciousness—to naturalize it, by explaining that the subjective, experiencing aspects of consciousness are created by natural brain processes that evolved in natural ways. Although subjective experience is unique in nature, they argue, it is not necessarily mysterious. We need not invoke the unknown or unknowable to explain its creation.

    Feinberg and Mallatt flesh out their theory of neurobiological naturalism (after John Searle's biological naturalism) that recognizes the many features that brains share with other living things, lists the neural features unique to conscious brains, and explains the subjective–objective barrier naturally. They investigate common neural features among the diverse groups of animals that have primary consciousness—the type of consciousness that experiences both sensations received from the world and affects such as emotions. They map the evolutionary development of consciousness and find an uninterrupted progression over time, without inserting any mysterious forces or exotic physics. Finally, bridging the previously unbridgeable, they show how subjective experience, although different from objective observation, can be naturally explained.

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
  • The Ancient Origins of Consciousness

    The Ancient Origins of Consciousness

    How the Brain Created Experience

    Todd E. Feinberg and Jon M. Mallatt

    How consciousness appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than is commonly assumed, and why all vertebrates and perhaps even some invertebrates are conscious.

    How is consciousness created? When did it first appear on Earth, and how did it evolve? What constitutes consciousness, and which animals can be said to be sentient? In this book, Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt draw on recent scientific findings to answer these questions—and to tackle the most fundamental question about the nature of consciousness: how does the material brain create subjective experience?

    After assembling a list of the biological and neurobiological features that seem responsible for consciousness, and considering the fossil record of evolution, Feinberg and Mallatt argue that consciousness appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than is commonly assumed. About 520 to 560 million years ago, they explain, the great “Cambrian explosion” of animal diversity produced the first complex brains, which were accompanied by the first appearance of consciousness; simple reflexive behaviors evolved into a unified inner world of subjective experiences. From this they deduce that all vertebrates are and have always been conscious—not just humans and other mammals, but also every fish, reptile, amphibian, and bird. Considering invertebrates, they find that arthropods (including insects and probably crustaceans) and cephalopods (including the octopus) meet many of the criteria for consciousness. The obvious and conventional wisdom–shattering implication is that consciousness evolved simultaneously but independently in the first vertebrates and possibly arthropods more than half a billion years ago. Combining evolutionary, neurobiological, and philosophical approaches allows Feinberg and Mallatt to offer an original solution to the “hard problem” of consciousness.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00