In reading a summary of Aristotle’s thinking, I got to thinking about human consciousness and evolution, and it struck me that within the framework of evolution human consciousness is a tragedy.
The idea behind the commonly accepted theory of evolution is that there is no telos (no goal or purpose) in nature, and so what we perceive as development in life forms is really just the random response of genetic mutation that happened to better fit some creatures for their environment than others, and those creatures, being better fitted, are the ones that survive to copulate, and pass on their characteristics to their offspring.
The tragedy I spoke of is that though we humans have gained characteristics that allowed us to gain dominance and thrive, this very development also made us dissatisfied with just surviving. The genetic mutations that eventually made abstract reasoning and sentience possible actually ill fitted us for a world that happened by chance. Our intellectual capacities have enabled us to go beyond adaptation to nature to the creation of culture, which in a myriad of ways expresses our need for meaning and purpose, which of course puts us at odds with a universe that is supposedly meaningless. In fact, it is this capacity that has led some within our species to contemplate the meaninglessness of it all and thereby consider suicide as a rational response. This is not survival of the fittest.
In closing, as I have further thought this through by writing this out, it strikes me that human consciousness is not just a tragedy; it is a tragedy with a good dose of irony. Of course, all of this only holds true within the philosophical naturalism that underpins evolutionary theory.