Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (Hardcover)

How Mind Emerged from Matter

By Terrence W. Deacon

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393049916, 624pp.

Publication Date: November 21, 2011



Incomplete Nature begins by accepting what other theories try to deny: that, although mental contents do indeed lack these material-energetic properties, they are still entirely products of physical processes and have an unprecedented kind of causal power that is unlike anything that physics and chemistry alone have so far explained. Paradoxically, it is the intrinsic incompleteness of these semiotic and teleological phenomena that is the source of their unique form of physical influence in the world. Incomplete Nature meticulously traces the emergence of this special causal capacity from simple thermodynamics to self-organizing dynamics to living and mental dynamics, and it demonstrates how specific absences (or constraints) play the critical causal role in the organization of physical processes that generate these properties. The book's radically challenging conclusion is that we are made of these specific absenses--such stuff as dreams are made on--and that what is not immediately present can be as physically potent as that which is. It offers a figure/background shift that shows how even meanings and values can be understood as legitimate components of the physical world.