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The question of origins is inseparable from a web of hypotheses that both shape and explain us. Although origin invites examination, it always seems to elude our grasp. Notions have always been produced which seek to interpret the genesis of life, mind, and the social order, and these notions have all been found to be unstable in the face of theoretical and empirical challenges. In any given period, the central ideas on origin have had a mutual resonance, frequently overlooked by specialists engaged in their particular fields.
The main purpose of this truly interdisciplinary book is the drawing together of contributions from biology, the cognitive sciences and the humanities into a joint exploration of some of the main contemporary notions which deal with the understanding of origins in life, mind and society.
The book consists of four central chapters (on social organization, symbols and money, life forms and perception) followed by acute and perceptive discussions. The book arose from an international meeting held at Stanford University.
Understanding Origin: An Introduction; J.-P. Dupuy, F.J. Varela. Origins: A View from Literature; R. Girard. Part I: Violence: The Origin of Social Order. Supplement to Apocalypse: Girard and Derrida; A.J. McKenna. A Morphogenetic Hypothesis; P. Dumouchel. Girard and the Origin of Culture; P. Livingston. Part II: The Origin of Money: Symbols and Texts. The Origin of Money; A. Orléan. Primitive Money, Modern Money; J.-J. Goux. Part III: Evolution and the Diversity of Life. Origins of Order in Evolution; S.A. Kauffman. Optimization in Question; J. Dupré. Incorporating Origins into Evolutionary Theory; D.R. Brooks. The Evolution of Generic Forms; B. Goodwin. Is Phylogeny Recapitulating Ontogeny? S. Oyama. Part IV: Perception and the Origin of Cognition. Whence Perceptual Meaning? A Cartography of Current Ideas; F.J. Varela. Perception, Connectionism, and Cognitive Science; C.A. Skarda. The Original and the Copy; U. Eco. Appendix. Index.