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Mind in Life

Mind in Life

Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind

Evan Thompson

ISBN 9780674057517

Publication date: 09/30/2010

How is life related to the mind? The question has long confounded philosophers and scientists, and it is this so-called explanatory gap between biological life and consciousness that Evan Thompson explores in Mind in Life.

Thompson draws upon sources as diverse as molecular biology, evolutionary theory, artificial life, complex systems theory, neuroscience, psychology, Continental Phenomenology, and analytic philosophy to argue that mind and life are more continuous than has previously been accepted, and that current explanations do not adequately address the myriad facets of the biology and phenomenology of mind. Where there is life, Thompson argues, there is mind: life and mind share common principles of self-organization, and the self-organizing features of mind are an enriched version of the self-organizing features of life. Rather than trying to close the explanatory gap, Thompson marshals philosophical and scientific analyses to bring unprecedented insight to the nature of life and consciousness. This synthesis of phenomenology and biology helps make Mind in Life a vital and long-awaited addition to his landmark volume The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (coauthored with Eleanor Rosch and Francisco Varela).

Endlessly interesting and accessible, Mind in Life is a groundbreaking addition to the fields of the theory of the mind, life science, and phenomenology.


  • The overarching topic of Thompson's book is nothing less than the nature of life and mind, where life and mind are conceived not as they often are--that is, as fundamentally separate subjects in need of largely nonintersecting theoretical frameworks--but rather as tightly intertwined phenomena in need of a common explanatory language. The long-anticipated follow-up to The Embodied Mind, this book is even better--clear, lively, original, and compelling. Mind in Life is a work for which a great number of thinkers in philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences have been eagerly waiting.

    —Michael Wheeler, author of Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step


  • Evan Thompson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia.

Book Details

  • 568 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press