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Figments of Reality
The Evolution of the Curious Mind

  • Date Published: January 2005
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9780511038426

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About the Authors
  • Is the universe around us a figment of our imagination? Or are our minds figments of reality? In this refreshing new look at the evolution of mind and culture, bestselling authors Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen eloquently argue that our minds necessarily evolved inextricably within the context of culture and language. They go beyond conventional reductionist ideas to look at how the mind is the response of an evolving brain trying to grapple with a complex environment. Along the way they develop new and intriguing insights into the nature of evolution, science and humanity.

    • Bestselling team of mathematician Ian Stewart, top popular science writer, and internationally known biologist Jack Cohen
    • Brilliantly looks at how human culture, mind and intelligence have evolved together
    • Peppered with lively debate and humour from the authors of the acclaimed The Collapse of Chaos
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '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

    'Sparkling science.' 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.' Biologist

    ' … 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

    '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'

    'A stimulating theory of how mind, consciousness, and culture have coevolved to create our species by two masters of informed, scientific speculation. Try it, and even if you don't like it you'll learn a lot. Who could ask for more?' John L. Casti

    'I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in events beyond our daily lives.' Rosalind Ramsey, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2005
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9780511038426
    • contains: 35 b/w illus.
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    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
    10. Extelligence
    11. Simplex, complex, multiplex
    Further reading

  • Authors

    Ian Stewart, University of Warwick

    Jack Cohen, University of Warwick

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