Incomplete Nature

  • by Terrence W. Deacon
  • Narrated by Brian Holsopple
  • 24 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A radical new explanation of how life and consciousness emerge from physics and chemistry.
As physicists work toward completing a theory of the universe and biologists unravel the molecular complexity of life, a glaring incompleteness in this scientific vision becomes apparent. The "theory of everything" that appears to be emerging includes everything but us: the feelings, meanings, consciousness, and purposes that make us (and many of our animal cousins) what we are. These most immediate and incontrovertible phenomena are left unexplained by the natural sciences because they lack the physical properties - such as mass, momentum, charge, and location - that are assumed to be necessary for something to have physical consequences in the world. This is an unacceptable omission. We need a "theory of everything" that does not leave it absurd that we exist.
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 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Well written, dense, the best book ever on the subject

I've read it many times. I've read lots of other books on the origins of life and mind. Hands down this is the one that addresses the issue most clearly, scientifically and directly. Some have complained that it's badly written. It is not. It's a rich concentrate of ideas, all of which are necessary. If you want a scientific approach to the meaning of life, or more accurately how, with life meaning emerges, this book is well worth the effort.
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- Taowin

Should be called "Incomplete Philosphy"

This book exhibits most of what's wrong with modern philosophy, especially regarding the sciences. In particular, the book follows a typical form of many philosophy books; the stages are:

1) Review the literature, emphasizing relatively obscure philosophers and scientists, usually to validate the author’s bona fides as a scholar in the field, but providing nothing truly new.

2) Create a rash of neologisms (e.g. telodynamics, autogen, telogen) that constitute a semantic forest of poorly differentiated concepts. He completely fails to offer comparisons to semantic terms from other authors.

3) Build on the basket of neologisms to create higher and higher levels of abstractions. Unfortunately, these new levels are postulated without clear examples from scientific data. Ultimately, no testable hypotheses are offered and story ends with demands for others to provide the “details”—that is, what should be the actual substance of any serious addition to the field of study.

His work is well written and interesting at points. Sadly, this is not enough. There are many other recent works on the subject of consciousness that are actually grounded in modern science.
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- David

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-17-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios