Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Terrence W. Deacon

Language: English

Pages: 624

ISBN: 0393343901

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“A tour de force encompassing biology, neurobiology, metaphysics, information theory, physics, and semiotics.”―Publishers Weekly

As scientists study the minutiae of subatomic particles, neural connections, and molecular compounds, their attempts at a “theory of everything” harbor a glaring omission: they still cannot explain us, the thoughts and perceptions that truly make us what we are. A masterwork that brings together science and philosophy, Incomplete Nature offers a revolutionary, captivating account of how life and consciousness emerged, revealing how our desires, feelings, and intentions can be understood in terms of the physical world. 12 illustrations

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chapter is whether life is nothing but complex morphodynamics, or whether instead there is something more to life than this, an additional emergent transition. As the title of this chapter suggests, I will argue the latter, but like the transition from thermodynamics to morphodynamics, this additional emergent transition turns out to be dynamically supervenient on morphodynamics and therefore also on thermodynamics. Explaining this doubly emergent dynamical logic is not just relevant to life,

tendency to change without external interference Panpsychism: The assumption that a vestige of mental phenomenology is present in every physical event, and therefore suffused throughout the cosmos. Although panpsychism is not as influential today, and effectively plays no role in modern cognitive neuroscience, it still attracts a wide following, mostly because of a serendipitous compatibility with certain interpretations of quantum physics Phase space: In mathematics and physics, a phase space

require that there must be fundamental physical properties yet to be discovered? In this book I advocate a less dramatic, though perhaps more counterintuitive approach. It’s not that the difficulty of locating consciousness among the neural signaling forces us to look for it in something else—that is, in some other sort of special substrate or ineffable ether or extra-physical realm. The anti-materialist claim is compatible with another, quite materially grounded approach. Like meanings and

parts are. Organisms aren’t composed by assembling independently produced and grouped parts. What we interpret as parts are in most cases the consequence of differentiation processes in which structural discontinuities and functional modularization emerged from a prior, less-differentiated state, whether in evolution or development. And even those that biologists believe to have originated independently, like the mitochondria of eukaryotic cells, are no longer fully separable cell components.

lacking in organization. Both are simplifications due to our representation of things, not things in themselves. What exist are processes of change, constraints exhibited by those processes, and the statistical smoothing and the attractors (dynamical regularities that form due to self-organizing processes) that embody the options left by these constraints. CONCRETE ABSTRACTION To return to the conundrum that began this exploration: Are constraints in the head or also in the world? Do they

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