It took me eight months but I finally finished reading Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter by Terrence Deacon. It’s pretty impressive. The guys starts with some gas in a pressurised chamber and a heat source, and six hundred pages later… consciousness! I got interested in Deacon’s work when I interviewed Eduardo Kohn and realised what an influence Deacon had on him. I regret that I didn’t study science or math more when I was in college, and over the years I’ve shifted from being interested in Big Issues as they are expressed in continental philosophy to being more and more interested in what scientists have to say about them. Partially this is a result of my being in a ‘four field’ department, partially its just the expansion of my interests away from my original speciality. Although I’m not really in a position to be critical of Deacon’s work due to Not Understanding All Of It, I am very impressed. It was particularly useful to connect Peircean semiotics with the natural sciences. If you are interested in giving it a shot, you might want to read Neither Ghost Nor Machine, which is half the size and is, I gather, a much easier secondary source to get through. Frankly if I had known that it existed before I read it, I might have just gone for that one instead. Still, I’m glad I took the time to read Incomplete Nature. I feel my brain is much stronger having been made to do exercises on this one.
Now that that is done, I’m looking for another Big Book to go through slowly. Have recommendations? Reach out on twitter, email, or Facebook. Thanks!