Conversations on Mind, Matter, and Mathematics

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9780691004051: Conversations on Mind, Matter, and Mathematics

Do numbers and the other objects of mathematics enjoy a timeless existence independent of human minds, or are they the products of cerebral invention? Do we discover them, as Plato supposed and many others have believed since, or do we construct them? Does mathematics constitute a universal language that in principle would permit human beings to communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations elsewhere in the universe, or is it merely an earthly language that owes its accidental existence to the peculiar evolution of neuronal networks in our brains? Does the physical world actually obey mathematical laws, or does it seem to conform to them simply because physicists have increasingly been able to make mathematical sense of it? Jean-Pierre Changeux, an internationally renowned neurobiologist, and Alain Connes, one of the most eminent living mathematicians, find themselves deeply divided by these questions.


The problematic status of mathematical objects leads Changeux and Connes to the organization and function of the brain, the ways in which its embryonic and post-natal development influences the unfolding of mathematical reasoning and other kinds of thinking, and whether human intelligence can be simulated, modeled,--or actually reproduced-- by mechanical means. The two men go on to pose ethical questions, inquiring into the natural foundations of morality and the possibility that it may have a neural basis underlying its social manifestations. This vivid record of profound disagreement and, at the same time, sincere search for mutual understanding, follows in the tradition of Poincaré, Hadamard, and von Neumann in probing the limits of human experience and intellectual possibility. Why order should exist in the world at all, and why it should be comprehensible to human beings, is the question that lies at the heart of these remarkable dialogues.

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From the Inside Flap:

"This wonderfully eloquent and playful colloquy of two brilliant minds gives new life to the old notion of Dialogue, a sadly forgotten form now.... I love this book!"--Oliver Sacks, M.D

"English-speaking readers can now benefit from the philosophical insights of two outstanding intellects--each a leader in his own field, each bringing his own distinctive perspective to deep and challenging issues. Conversations on Mind, Matter, and Mathematics is fascinating."--Roger Penrose

"It is a privilege to be permitted to eavesdrop on this fascinating conversation between two gifted individuals: a conversation that is remarkable for its erudition and that puts some very old questions into a very modern context."--Leon Cooper, Nobel Laureate in Physics

"This book is a superb guide to the philosophical ambiguities and contradictions that lie beneath the surface of science. Looking at the world as though 'through a glass darkly,' Changeux and Connes wind up seeing apparently irreconcilable realities. Their debate is likely to become a classic."--David Ruelle, Institut des Hautes tudes Scientifiques, Paris

"The concluding remarks on ethics, setting out the credo of the neuroscientist, are the highpoints of a quite remarkable book. I do not think this has ever been done in quite the same way. A brilliant performance."--Vernon B. Mountcastle, Johns Hopkins University

"This is not so much a book as a journey. Like all journeys, it is stimulating, widens one's horizons, and leaves one wishing one could stay longer. The reader is treated to an inside look at the workings of two great minds, and is privileged to enjoy their reflections on an unusually wide range of topics. This is not a book that narrowly focuses on mathematics or neuroscience; it is a set of deep insights and provocative speculations about the nature of reality and what we can know about it."--Stephen M. Kosslyn, Harvard University

"There are so many 'points of intellectual light' within the framework of this magnificent book that one should take the opportunity to study each page with as much care as one would exercise in viewing a beautiful piece of crystal or examining a fine painting. The authors truly probe the very limits of human understanding. . . . "--Robert J. White, M.D., Ph.D., Commonweal

"Two leading giants face off: the biologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, leading neuroscientist and author of Neuronal Man, and the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, eminent apostle of phenomenology and author of Living Metaphors. The two develop...a true exchange of ideas, breaking with the preemptory affirmations and unilateral critiques which have too often characterized relations between science and philosophy."--Grard Badu, Le Nouvel Observateur

"The materialist neurobiologist and the philosopher establish a no-holds-barred dialogue, which has resulted in a captivating book: often demanding, but always free of jargon. This exceptional initiative should be a milestone in the history of ideas."--Jean-Claude Escaffit, La Vie

"A rich dialogue, insofar as the two men belong to divergent currents of thought. . .neither a sham exchange of blows nor an intellectual compromise on either side. . .This exchange constitutes the most successful exercise of its type. . .it throws the perspectives right open."--Yves Christen, Nouveut

About the Author:

Jean-Pierre Changeux is Director of the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and Professor at the Collège de France. Alain Connes, winner of the 1982 Fields Medal, is Professor of Mathematics at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in Bures-sur-Yvette and Professor at the Collège de France.

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Do numbers and the other objects of mathematics enjoy a timeless existence independent of human minds, or are they the products of cerebral invention? Do we discover them, as Plato supposed and many others have believed since, or do we construct them? Does mathematics constitute a universal language that in principle would permit human beings to communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations elsewhere in the universe, or is it merely an earthly language that owes its accidental existence to the peculiar evolution of neuronal networks in our brains? Does the physical world actually obey mathematical laws, or does it seem to conform to them simply because physicists have increasingly been able to make mathematical sense of it? Jean-Pierre Changeux, an internationally renowned neurobiologist, and Alain Connes, one of the most eminent living mathematicians, find themselves deeply divided by these questions. The problematic status of mathematical objects leads Changeux and Connes to the organization and function of the brain, the ways in which its embryonic and post-natal development influences the unfolding of mathematical reasoning and other kinds of thinking, and whether human intelligence can be simulated, modeled,--or actually reproduced-- by mechanical means. The two men go on to pose ethical questions, inquiring into the natural foundations of morality and the possibility that it may have a neural basis underlying its social manifestations. This vivid record of profound disagreement and, at the same time, sincere search for mutual understanding, follows in the tradition of Poincare, Hadamard, and von Neumann in probing the limits of human experience and intellectual possibility. Why order should exist in the world at all, and why it should be comprehensible to human beings, is the question that lies at the heart of these remarkable dialogues. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780691004051

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Do numbers and the other objects of mathematics enjoy a timeless existence independent of human minds, or are they the products of cerebral invention? Do we discover them, as Plato supposed and many others have believed since, or do we construct them? Does mathematics constitute a universal language that in principle would permit human beings to communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations elsewhere in the universe, or is it merely an earthly language that owes its accidental existence to the peculiar evolution of neuronal networks in our brains? Does the physical world actually obey mathematical laws, or does it seem to conform to them simply because physicists have increasingly been able to make mathematical sense of it? Jean-Pierre Changeux, an internationally renowned neurobiologist, and Alain Connes, one of the most eminent living mathematicians, find themselves deeply divided by these questions. The problematic status of mathematical objects leads Changeux and Connes to the organization and function of the brain, the ways in which its embryonic and post-natal development influences the unfolding of mathematical reasoning and other kinds of thinking, and whether human intelligence can be simulated, modeled,--or actually reproduced-- by mechanical means. The two men go on to pose ethical questions, inquiring into the natural foundations of morality and the possibility that it may have a neural basis underlying its social manifestations. This vivid record of profound disagreement and, at the same time, sincere search for mutual understanding, follows in the tradition of Poincare, Hadamard, and von Neumann in probing the limits of human experience and intellectual possibility. Why order should exist in the world at all, and why it should be comprehensible to human beings, is the question that lies at the heart of these remarkable dialogues. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780691004051

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