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  Mens Sana Monographs
A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man, Mind, Music And Their Matrix
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BRAIN, MIND AND CONSCIOUSNESS
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 159-182

Sickness and healing and the evolutionary foundations of mind and minding


Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 Ohara Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15216, USA

Correspondence Address:
Horacio Fabrega Jr
Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 Ohara Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15216
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0973-1229.77433

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Disease represents a principal tentacle of natural selection and a staple theme of evolutionary medicine. However, it is through a small portal of entry and a very long lineage that disease as sickness entered behavioural spaces and human consciousness. This has a long evolutionary history. Anyone interested in the origins of medicine and psychiatry as social institution has to start with analysis of how mind and body were conceptualised and played out behaviourally following the pongid/hominin split and thereafter. The early evolution of medicine provides a template for clarifying elemental characteristics of mind and minding. Sickness and healing in chimpanzees represents an early manifestation of (ethno) medicine, termed a behavioural tradition, which is found played out in routines of helping, caring, and healing as well as other social behaviours. Chimpanzees seem to know they are sick since they resort to self-medication when exhibiting signs and symptoms of disease. Also, they help those exhibiting physical and cognitive disability. Among hominins, awareness of consequences and implications of sickness and coping with them represented an important feature of human consciousness and a major factor in the origins of vaunted human abilities involving language, cognition, and culture as we know them. A philosophical examination of the early evolution of sickness and healing provides a window into an understanding of evolving human capacities such as self-awareness, awareness and implications of suffering, theory of mind, altruism, conceptual grasp of sickness and healing and morality.


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