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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.
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