Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter

Jerry Fodor writes:

The book starts well enough. Deacon worries (as many have before him) that some characteristics of mental phenomena are hard – perhaps impossible – to accommodate within the broadly naturalistic consensus that civilised persons increasingly take for granted: the world consists, at a minimum, of lots and lots of middle-sized objects (tables and chairs, you and me) together with their smaller parts. These interact causally in accordance with natural laws in ways that the material sciences have explored with some success. The history of the world is the totality of such interactions. Many perplexing phenomena that once seemed to be intractable to naturalistic explanation have proved, on closer examination, not to be so. It turns out that there aren’t any ghosts, or angels, or entelechies; there aren’t even any vital forces. (Perhaps there are abstract objects, numbers and sets, for example, but they are causally inert.) It seems that the natural world is all there is. This is, to be sure, pretty imprecise; but, as far as it goes, it has proved to be remarkably reliable.

(LRB 24 May 2012)

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