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The Primordial Emotions: The Dawning of Consciousness
Author(s) Derek Denton
Country Australia
Language English
Genre(s) Science and Philosophy
Publication date 2006
Media type Print
ISBN 978-0-19-920314-7

The Primordial Emotions: The Dawning of Consciousness is a 2006 book by the Australian neuroscientist Derek Denton. In it Denton argues that, if self-awareness and intentionality are intrinsic to consciousness, the primordial emotions such as thirst, hunger and pain (that involve feeling the self and intention) are the likely precursors to consciousness; that a kind of non-reflective consciousness evolved along with these feelings and before the emergence of cognition. This opposes the view put by Edelman and others that consciousness emerged after the development of cognitive processes such as the ability to create a scene from diverse sensory inputs.

Denton distinguishes between primordial emotions, "imperious states of arousal and compelling intentions to act" (p.7) driven by activation of interoceptors and involving ancient, lower brain regions such as the medulla, midbrain and hypothalamus, and "classic" emotions, such as anger, fear and love, driven by distance receptors (vision, hearing, olfaction) and mediated by higher, more recently evolved brain regions.[1]


  1. Jablonka E & Ginsberg S (2006) Book review. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13(6) pp. 97–122
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