Wed, 14 December 2022

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm GMT

Sentience – The Invention of Consciousness

Nicholas Humphrey In Conversation With David Malone

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How do sensations arise in the brain? Who else in the world is conscious the way humans are? Nicholas Humphrey brings together a lifetime’s work to put forward a provocative new theory.

“Nobody has thought more deeply, originally or poetically about animal sentience and the notion of consciousness. In this bold and persuasive book, he lays out how he came to his conclusions in a lifetime of studying animals and human minds.” – Matt Ridley

We feel, therefore we are. Conscious sensations ground our sense of self.  They are crucial to our idea of ourselves as psychic beings: present, existent, and mattering. But is it only humans who feel this way? Do other animals? Will future machines?

Weaving together intellectual adventure and cutting-edge science, theoretical psychologist Nicholas Humphrey will explore the quest for answers: from his discovery of blindsight in monkeys, his pioneering work on social intelligence, to breakthroughs in the philosophy of mind.  The goal: to solve the hard problem – to explain the wondrous, eerie fact of “phenomenal consciousness” – the redness of a poppy, the sweetness of honey, the pain of a bee-sting.

What does this magical dimension of experience amount to? What’s it for, and why has it evolved? Humphrey will present, in full for the first time, a plausible solution. It implies that phenomenal consciousness, far from being primitive, is a relatively late and sophisticated evolutionary development. The implications, for the existence of sentience in nonhuman animals, are startling and provocative.

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Nicholas Humphrey


Nicholas Humphrey is a theoretical psychologist who studies the evolution of intelligence and consciousness.  He was the first to demonstrate the existence of ‘blindsight’ after brain damage in monkeys, carried out research on mountain gorillas in Rwanda with Dian Fossey, proposed the celebrated theory of the ‘social function of intellect’, and has investigated the evolutionary background of religion, art, healing, death-awareness, and suicide.  His honours include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, the Pufendorf Medal, and the International Mind and Brain Prize.

David Malone

Award-winning Science Filmmaker

David Malone is a filmmaker and TV presenter whose documentaries include Testing God, Soul Searching (both Channel 4), Dangerous Knowledge and The Secret Life of Waves (both BBC). He is the author of The Debt Generation.