Jeremy Sherman, Neither Ghost Nor Machine: The Emergence and Nature of Selves (Columbia University Press: 2017)
Reviewed for Choice Magazine by Ronald F. White
In this book Jeremy Sherman, a former student of noted philosopher/scientist Terrence Deacon, explains and expands upon Deacon’s book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (2012). While Sherman’s book is well-written and (for the most part) jargon-free, it is not suitable for students or the general public. Here are four reasons why: 1.) Sherman stipulates complex definitions for many common words; especially “selves” and “aims.” Then he addresses the nature and origins of both selves and aims, via evolutionary theory. That’s a lot. 2.) The title implies an alternative to Cartesian two-sided interactionism, often referred to as the “ghost in the machine hypothesis.” He suggests that his selves/aims model avoids the traditional mind-body problem by redefining “ghost” and “machine” in light of evolution. That’s a lot too! 3.) Much of this book also addresses the historically-puzzling concepts of teleological, teleonomic, and teleodynamics. That’s a lot. 4.) Sherman’s closing argument, attempts to carve out theoretical space for values, in a world of evolutionary facts, which is a lot and worthy of its own book. While we can all appreciate the effort behind this book, it is way too ambitious, and complex to recommend as a textbook in philosophy or evolutionary biology.