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Incomplete Nature

How Mind Emerged from Matter

Terrence W. Deacon


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Other Editions of This Title:
MP3 CD (5/24/2016)
Hardcover (11/21/2011)


“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.

Praise For Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Contains many rewarding thoughts about life and mind and their place in nature.
— Nature

Unprecedentedly comprehensive. . . . Imagine the consequences for science and society of having a physical explanation for functional, meaningful and conscious behavior no less scientific and accessible than our explanation for lightning. I believe Deacon provides just that.
— Psychology Today

In his approach to the question of how sentience emerged from ‘dumb’ and ‘numb’ matter, Mr. Deacon mobilizes some radically new ideas.
— Wall Street Journal

A profound shift in thinking that in magnitude can only be compared with those that followed upon the works of Darwin and Einstein.
— Robert E. Ulanowicz, author of A Third Window: Natural Life beyond Newton and Darwin

This is a work of science and philosophy at the cutting edge of both that seeks to develop a complete theory of the world that includes humans, our minds and culture, embodied and emerging in nature.
— Bruce H. Weber, coauthor of Darwinism Evolving

A stunningly original, stunningly synoptic book. With Autogenesis, Significance, Sentience, seventeen insightful and integrated chapters turn our world upside down and finally, as in the Chinese proverb, lead us home again to a place we see anew. Few ask the important questions. Deacon is one of these.
— Stuart Kauffman, author of Investigations

[Deacon] demonstrates how systems that are intrinsically incomplete happen to be alive and meaning-making. The crux of life—and meaning—is solved. It was worthwhile to wait for this book. The twenty-first century can now really start.
— Kalevi Kull, professor, Department of Semiotics, Tartu University

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393343908, 624pp.

Publication Date: April 22, 2013

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.