Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

by Terrence W. Deacon


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Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter by Terrence W. Deacon

“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393343908
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/22/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 435,506
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Terrence W. Deacon is a professor of biological anthropology and neuroscience and the chair of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. The author of The Symbolic Species and Incomplete Nature, he lives near Berkeley, California.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

0 Absence 1

The missing cipher 1

What matters? 3

Calculating with absence 8

A Zeno's paradox of the mind 11

"As simple as possible, but not too simple" 13

1 (W)Holes 18

A stone's throw 18

What's missing? 22

Denying the magic 31

Telos ex machina 34

Ex nihilo nihil fit 37

When less is more 42

2 Homunculi 46

The little man in my head 46

Homuncular representations 49

The vessel of teleology 56

Hiding final cause 59

Gods of the gaps 61

Preformation and epigenesis 64

Mentalese 69

Mind all the way down? 72

3 Golems 80

Elimination schemes 80

Heads of the Hydra 82

Dead truth 87

The ghost in the computer 93

The ballad of Deep Blue 97

4 Teleonomy 107

Back to the future 107

The Law of Effect 110

Pseudopurpose 114

Blood, brains, and silicon 124

Fractions of life 128

The road not taken 136

5 Emergence 143

Novelty 143

The evolution of emergence 146

Reductionism 152

The emergentists 154

A house of cards? 164

Complexity and "chaos" 169

Processes and parts 175

6 Constraint 182

Habits 182

Redundancy 187

More similar = less different 190

Concrete abstraction 197

Nothing is irreducible 203

7 Homeodynamics 206

Why things change 206

A brief history of energy 214

Falling and forcing 219

Reframing thermodynamics 227

A formal cause of efficient causes? 230

8 Morphodynamics 235

Order from disorder 235

Self-simplification 243

Far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics 247

Rayleigh-Bénard convection: A case study 250

The diversity of morphodynamic processes 255

The exception that proves the rule 262

9 Teleodynamics 264

A common dynamical thread 264

Linked origins 271

Compounded asymmetries 274

Self-reproducing mechanisms 277

What is life? 281

Frankencells 283

10 Autogenesis 288

The threshold of function 288

Autocatalysis 292

Containment 295

Synergy 302

Autogens 305

Autogenic evolution 311

The ratchet of life 315

The emergence of teleodynamics 319

11 Work 326

Forced to change 326

Effort 328

Against spontaneity 332

Transformation 339

Morphodynamic work 346

Teleodynamic work 357

Emergent causal powers 364

12 Information 371

Missing the difference 371

Omissions, expectations, and absences 376

Two entropies 378

Information and reference 381

It takes work 386

Taming the demon 389

13 Significance 392

Aboutness matters 392

Beyond cybernetics 394

Working it out 397

Interpretation 399

Noise versus error 403

Darwinian information 407

From noise to signal 411

Information emerging 414

Representation 419

14 Evolution 421

Natural elimination 421

"Life's several powers" 426

Abiogenesis 430

The replicator's new clothes 434

Autogenic interpretation 442

Energetics to genetics 447

Falling into complexity 457

15 Self 463

Starting small 463

Individuation 468

Selves made of selves 470

Neuronal self 474

Self-differentiation 476

The locus of agency 479

Evolution's answer to nominalism 481

The extentionless cogito 483

16 Sentience 485

Missing the forest for the trees 485

Sentience versus intelligence 490

The complement to computation 494

Computing with meat 498

From organism to brain 504

17 Consciousness 508

The hierarchy of sentience 508

Emotion and energy 511

The thermodynamics of thought 517

Whence suffering? 524

Being here 532

Conclusion of the beginning 538

Epilogue 539

Nothing matters 539

The calculus of intentionality 541

Value 544

Glossary 547

Notes 555

References 569

Index 579

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Incomplete Nature 2.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
MichaelLissack More than 1 year ago
While Deacon's latest work is a well written review of his current thinking if one is a general reader, the book falls well short of acceptable academic standards. Important parallel work by Alicia Juarrero, Evan Thompson, and Mark Graves is simply ignored -- despite all three authors having published years before this book and despite Deacon's having had personal interaction with all three. There seem to be NO references cited post 2005 other than Deacon's own work -- which seems strange for a book written in 2010 and edited in 2011. Academic readers are urged to look at the parallel research where the referencing is much better and attributions are NOT inexplicably missing. General readers looking to explore will find a thoughtful exposition BUT this is NOT Deacon's best work.
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