325 pages, 5 b/w photos, 35 line illus
Peppered with wit and controversial topics, this is a refreshing new look at the co-evolution of mind and culture. Bestselling authors Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (The Collapse of Chaos) eloquently argue that our minds evolved within an inextricable link with culture and language. They go beyond conventional views of the function and purpose of the mind to look at the ways that the mind is the response of an evolving brain that is constantly adjusting to a complex environment. Along the way they develop new and intriguing insights into the nature of evolution, science, and humanity that will challenge conventional views on consciousness. The esteemed authors tantalize the reader with these bold new outlooks while putting a revolutionary spin on such classic philosophical problems as the nature of free will and the essence of humanity. This clearly written and enjoyable book will inspire any educated reader to critically evaluate the existing notions of the nature of the human mind.
"One of the most heartening and innovative books of the year."
- John Cornwell, The Sunday Times
"[a] provocative, ambitious and enjoyable attempt to ask and answer some of the most interesting Big Questions of modern science and philosophy."
- New Scientist
"Stewart and Cohen assault [...] all the big questions with gleeful expedition. Figments questions our placidly received wisdom [...] is frighteningly readable."
- Henry Gee, Nature
- Graham Cairns-Smith, author of Evolving the Mind
"The reviewer is certain that everyone will enjoy sharing this journey into the mind, and that they will learn much background science, too."
- Irish Astronomical Journal
"The good thing about these two authors is that they are not interested in providing an easy read. They tend to challenge the reader's preconceptions. It is a bumpy ride but always stimulating."
- Chris Boyce, The Herald (Glasgow)
"[...] a stimulating and entertaining read."
"[...] certainly an impressive and significant work. [The authors] have a refreshingly original approach to science. The book is written with a wry humour that carries the reader along. Academics usually write impenetrably; Steward and Cohen's delightful style enables them to explain complex issues in science to the non-specialist."
- David V. Barrett, Fortean Times
"I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in events beyond our daily lives."
- Rosalind Ramsey, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
"[The authors] are witty, erudite, clever, and generally clear-headed in this rationalist's view of the universe and human evolution [...] delightful [...] " Library Journal
"It analyzes the evolution of mankind's consciousness from a new and intriguing perspective. It argues that the mind evolved in the context of culture and language, aiding survival in a complex and competitive world." Biology Digest
"The most thought-provoking book I've read all year." Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series
"A stimulating theory of how mind, consciousness, and culture have coevolved to create our species by two masters of informed, scientific speculation. Try it [...] you'll learn a lot. Who could ask for more?"
- John L. Casti, Santa Fe Institute and Technical University of Vienna, author of Would-Be Worlds
"Figments of Reality is highly recommended for college-level collections and any non-specialist general reader."
"A delightful read that is excellent for academic collections and general collections with a highly literate readership."
- Mark L. Shelton, Library Journal
"Stewart and Cohen show how intelligence and extelligence interact by way of language and how the end product formulates culture [...] the authors are quick-witted and provide a lively exposition."
- Science News
"While the subject matter is rather heady, the authors are quickwitted and provide a lively exposition."
- Science News Books
"It analyzes the evolution of mankind's consciousness from a new and intriguing perspective. It argues that the mind evolved in the context of culture and language, aiding survival in a complex and competitive world."
- Biology Digest
1. The origins of life
2. The reductionist nightmare
3. Ant country
4. Winning ways
5. Universals and parochials
6. Neural nests
7. Features great and small
8. What is it like to be a human?
9. We wanted to have a chapter on free will, but we decided not to, so here it is
11. Simplex, complex, multiplex
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