The learning-consciousness connection

Jonathan Birch, Simona Ginsburg, Eva Jablonka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This is a response to the nine commentaries on our target article “Unlimited Associative Learning: A primer and some predictions”. Our responses are organized by theme rather than by author. We present a minimal functional architecture for Unlimited Associative Learning (UAL) that aims to tie to together the list of capacities presented in the target article. We explain why we discount higher-order thought (HOT) theories of consciousness. We respond to the criticism that we have overplayed the importance of learning and underplayed the importance of spatial modelling. We decline the invitation to add a negative marker to our proposed positive marker so as to rule out consciousness in plants, but we nonetheless maintain that there is no positive evidence of consciousness in plants. We close by discussing how UAL relates to development and to its material substrate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Consciousness
  • Evolution
  • Evolutionarytransitions
  • Global workspace
  • Higher-order thought
  • Learning
  • Transition marker
  • Unlimited associative learning


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