>Consciousness is a system by which we are in some sense aware of ourselves and our relationship to others and the rest of the world. For this reason I regard it as most likely evolved in the context of success in social matters. My own introspection, and my observation of others, suggest to me that how others see us is absolutely crucial to social success, however success is defined. It appears to me that consciousness is largely a system for testing the question of how others see us and adjusting our image in our own self-interest - that is a vehicle for, as Robert Burns put it, seeing ourselves as others see us.
A central aspect of consciousness is the ability to look ahead, the capability that we call "foresight". It is the ability to plan, and in social terms the ability to outline a scenario of what is likely going to happen, or what might happen, in social interactions that have not yet taken place. The significance of that ability is obvious. It is a system whereby we improve our chances of doing those things that will represent our own best interests. We consider what will happen if - if we do this or if we do that; and we try to judge what others with whom we expect to interact will do, under each of several circumstances, and to figure out how to get them to behave as we would like them to. We draw up alternatives and consider them, one by one. It is especially significant that we do this so prominently in the connection with social interactions, for no other life situations are quite so uncertain, or so important to plan out ahead of time. The reason is that those with whom we interact are also capable of scenario-building, and so their behavior will be tuned to their own particular interests and their own efforts to anticipate our responses. No feature of the environment is quite so difficult to figure out as what to expect from other social beings with whom we must interact, each of whom is attempting with all the capabilities he can muster to adjust the outcomes of our interactions with him to his own advantage, rather than to ours, when our interests differ.
In the course of using our consciousness and foresight to build scenarios and plan our social interactions, we visualize alternatives and test them one by one. We see these different alternatives available to us if we choose to use them, and in some sense they are - or at least some of them are. I believe that it is our ability to visualize alternatives, particularly in connection with social interactions, that represents the basis of the concept free will. We see points of decision ahead of us because we have used all the information we can muster from the past and present to build future scenarios about our immediate futures, and I suggest that "free will" is our apparent ability to choose and act upon whichever of these decisions seem most useful or appropriate, and our insistence upon the idea that such choices are our own. ...<
Darwinism and Human Affairs
Richard D. Alexander (1979)