Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (Hardcover)
Deacon’s aim in Incomplete Nature is to characterize things that are absent (e.g., function, reference, purpose, value) using information theory, thermodynamics and chaos theory. He mobilizes arguments based on evolution and emergence and coins some neologisms to allow him to push those concepts forward. Along the way he attacks reductive materialist accounts of consciousness and puts forth his own theories of how the first forms of life may have started. Heavy on philosophy and dense with physics, it is worth the effort!— Andy
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.