STOIC POETRY | Tracing consciousness

Updated: Sep 4

I wonder how far down the tree of life consciousness goes? Like us, dogs are clearly aware of themselves relative to the world, and can imagine current and potential circumstance which might cause them pleasure or pain, as when the male dog breaks from his yard in pursuit of the bitch, or sets to barking at the strange noise from the street which provokes his sense of threat to his home, his human family and himself. Some sense of personal identity appears necessary to distinguish friend or foe from oneself, and dogs, like us, clearly have this. Both species share such consciousness, as do nearly all animal types I can think of, from mammals, to reptiles and amphibians, to birds, fish and even spiders and insects - as when the fly attempts to escape the web while the spider descends upon a thread to subdue and consume it - all animals seem somehow aware of themselves and, to various degrees, others. Consciousness then, must be either a consequence of life itself or a necessary adaptation to survive, at least with animals. But what about the other kingdoms of multicellular life? Are plants conscious? Are fungi aware?

The question of consciousness should depend on just what consciousness is:



  • The state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings

  • The awareness or perception of something by a person

  • The fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world

Is a plant "awake and aware" of its surroundings? Does a tree not turn its leaves to follow the course of the sun across the sky? Does a