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Paperback | $36.00 Short | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262692090 | 432 pp. | 6 x 8.9 in | January 1998

On the Origin of Objects


On the Origin of Objects is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith's decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.

Smith's ambitious project begins as a search for a comprehensive theory of computation, able to do empirical justice to practice and conceptual justice to the computational theory of mind. A rigorous commitment to these two criteria ultimately leads him to recommend a radical overhaul of our traditional conception of metaphysics.


"Like the work of Simon, Chomsky, Kuhn, and Foucault, Brian CantwellSmith's On the Origin of Objects comes into philosophy from theoutside and stands to shake things up. This is an essay in fundamentalmetaphysics, but not like any we've ever seen before. Bringing toontology the training of a computer scientist, and the sensibilitiesof an artist-engineer, Smith recreates our understanding of objectsessentially from scratch—and changes, I think, everything."
John Haugeland, Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh