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The Evolution of Meaning: A Universal Learning Process

In this first volume of his book series The Evolution of Meaning, Dempsey introduces a theory of meaning based in thermodynamics and information processing. If the acquisition of meaningful information is what allows entities to keep far from equilibrium, we can appreciate cosmic complexification through evolution as a learning process. Tracking the trajectory of this learning process through the emergent levels of Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture, we see how meaning takes on new shades of depth and informational richness across scales. By the time we reach the domain of human culture, we can recognize notions of meaning, value, and the sacred as extensions of more fundamental processes on which they are based but to which they cannot be reduced. This framework allows us to situate human meaning-making within its broader evolutionary context and will inform the attempt in future volumes to track the complexification of such meanings across human history.

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