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Human conscious experience consists of many forms of awareness, from simple sensations to different kinds of emotions and elaborate visual and conceptual categories. An increasing number of scholars admit that not only humans but also other animals possess consciousness. However, the uniqueness of human propositional language and other conceptual phenomena suggests that there is a substantial difference between the consciousness of humans and other animals. Ginsburg and Jablonka have recently referred to the Aristotelian dichotomy between the ‘sensitive’ and ‘rational soul’ in order to emphasize the evolutionary sources of this difference. The aim of this proposal is to indicate that the emotional reactions to musical syntax represent a form of consciousness that preceded the appearance of a human conceptual mind. In contrast to the standard explanation that musical syntax appeared thanks to the evolution of language, the proposed view leads to the opposite explanation. Emotional experience, being pre-conceptual and an evolutionarily old form of stimuli assessment, became the first mental reference of hierarchical, syntactic relations as the result of the evolution of cortical and subcortical interactions. Only later were the complex syntactic dependencies involved in conceptual operations leading to the development of reflective consciousness. This view is supported by the facts that the experience and recognition of musical syntax do not necessitate any awareness of conceptual properties, and that the auditory-motor synchronization as well as the vocal control of sound frequency – the abilities that are crucial for the production of rhythm and pitch syntaxes, are both based on cortico-subcortical loops.
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