Neither Ghost nor Machine

The Emergence and Nature of Selves

Jeremy Sherman. Foreword by Terrence Deacon.

Columbia University Press

Neither Ghost nor Machine

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Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231173339

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.95

Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231173322

312 Pages

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List Price: $90.00£74.95

Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231545990

312 Pages

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Neither Ghost nor Machine

The Emergence and Nature of Selves

Jeremy Sherman. Foreword by Terrence Deacon.

Columbia University Press

If the universe is aimless, how do selves and aims emerge? Why do living beings have aims when inanimate things do not? Current science encourages us to reject the ghost-in-the-machine explanation—that something called spirit, soul, mind, or will was somehow breathed into matter—and instead accept that selves are just matter, in aimless mechanistic motion like everything else. But what about life’s many emergent qualities, the multifarious purposes that shape actual physical behavior not just in human lives, but in all of life? Even the simplest life forms have adaptive functions, traits that accomplish goals or ends. How can we explain the nature and origin of selves and aims without resorting to supernatural forces or explaining them away as nothing but cause-and-effect mechanisms?

In Neither Ghost nor Machine, Jeremy Sherman explains the emergence of selves and aims in an aimless universe. He distills for a general audience the theory developed by renowned neuroscientist Terrence Deacon, which extends the breakthrough constraint-based insight that inspired evolutionary, information, and self-organization theory. Emergent dynamics theory provides a testable hypothesis for how mattering arose from matter, function from physics, and means-to-ends behavior from cause-and-effect dynamics. It offers a physics of purpose, demonstrating that there is a strictly physical explanation for the emergence and nature of selves and aims, one that shows our existence in an otherwise inanimate universe is not absurd. Neither Ghost nor Machine bridges the gap between the hard and soft sciences, suggesting fresh and exciting solutions to philosophical mysteries that have perplexed humanity for millennia, from free will to causality to morality.
In Neither Ghost nor Machine, Jeremy Sherman takes on a central mystery: How did the universe get from matter to mattering? Whence purpose? Whence selves? These are topics too easily ignored in our rush to find the molecular stuff of life and not the organizational "what is” of life. With this fine book, and that of Deacon, we are well launched. Stuart Kauffman, MacArthur Fellow, author of At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
Neither Ghost nor Machine reckons with the most profound questions one can ask about the nature of the self and of life on earth. It is the work of a fiercely inquisitive and original mind. Kaja Perina, editor in chief, Psychology Today
When the Big Bang banged all there was was just the stuff of basic physics, fermions, bosons, and such. There was neither life nor mind. Now there is life all over the place and some of it is conscious. How is that possible? How could such things as life and mind emerge? Jeremy Sherman has written a clear, clever, witty guide to the new science of emergence championed by Terrence Deacon. This is a philosophical treasure trove that explains how novelty emerges without explanatory gaps and violations of the laws of nature. Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University, author of Consciousness Reconsidered
Finally! A breakthrough approach to fundamental questions that have gone unanswered for so long that many forget to ask them. Fascinating, profound! Daniel Ellsberg, behavioral economist, Right Livelihood Award recipient
For those of us who call ourselves religious/spiritual naturalists, this book is sure to become an instant classic. Its narrative of how living beings are and came to be is rigorous, accessible, and lyrical, and will greatly deepen our affinity with the natural world and with one another. Ursula Goodenough, Washington University in St. Louis, author of The Sacred Depths of Nature
Neither Ghost nor Machine is an eloquent manifesto in the movement to reclaim questions of purpose and agency for science. Presenting Terrence Deacon’s account of the natural emergence of living agents, Jeremy Sherman casts aside the stale, old dichotomies to show us a new way of thinking scientifically about life. Jessica Riskin, author of The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument over What Makes Living Things Tick
Jeremy Sherman lucidly explicates the paradigm-changing vision of Terrence Deacon, which addresses the mysteries of the origin of living systems from the nonliving and the emergence of mind and purpose in a nature that is still the the process of evolving. Bruce H. Weber, coauthor of Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection
The persistent Western dualism of mind and matter is finally done for, and the burden of proof has shifted. Thanks to books like Neither Ghost Nor Machine, inspired by the work of Terrence Deacon, we are now crossing the threshold to a brave new self-understanding Loyal D. Rue, Luther College
Foreword, by Terrence Deacon
I. Overview
1. The Mystery of Purpose
2. The Biggest Mystery We Ever Ignore
3. Deacon’s Solution in Brief
II. Framing the Mystery
4. Two Sources of Change
5. Selves
6. Two Ghosts, Two Machines
7. Interpretation
8. Aims
9. Evolution’s Limited Limiting Role
III. Dead Ends, Live Clues
10. The History
11. Evolutionary Theory’s Elusive Self
12. Information About Nothing for Anyone
13. The Engineered Ghosts in Our Machines
14. Small Is Dubious
IV. Grounding a Solution
15. Processes of Emergent Elimination
16. Second Law Irregularity
17. Emergent Regularization
18. Emergent Regularization vs. Emergent Self-Regeneration
19. Other Emergent Regularization Dynamics
20. Coupled Regularization Processes
V. Deacon’s Solution
21. Autogens: Self-Generators
22. Evolved Autogens
23. Where Is the Self?
24. The Consequences of Self-Regeneration
VI. The Interpreting Self
25. Codes, Signs, Interpreters
26. Kinds of Signs
VII. Implications
27. A Constraint-Based Approach to Evolutionary Theory
28. Implications for the Free Will Debate?
29. Making Science Safe for Value
Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes
Index

About the Author

Jeremy Sherman is a decision theorist researching and writing about choice from the origin of life to everyday living. He teaches college courses across the social sciences and blogs for Psychology Today. He has studied and collaborated with Terrence Deacon for twenty years.

Terrence Deacon is professor of biological anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain (1997) and Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (2011).