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Nd cosmology Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history An adeuate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the Much maligned in reviews misrepresented for the most part I'm inclined to think the negative response was indicative of dogma than of shoddy reasoning on Nagel's part

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Mind and Cosmos

Universe of materially irreducible conscious minds as such No such explanation is available and the physical sciences including molecular biology cannot be expected to provide one The book explores these problems through a general treatment of the obstacles to reductionism with specific application to the phenomena of consciousness cognition and value The conclusion is that physics cannot be the theory of everythin I am not sure what I can add to a review of this book that has not been said before I found his honesty refreshing Though he has been a staunch materialistic atheist he is honest enough to admit that certain features of the universe do not sit will with materialism and are unlikely to ever be explained in materialistic terms For things like ualia there seems to be an uncrossable ditch between materialism and explanation Unlike most materialists Nagel does not go down the road of reductionism He truly seems to 'get' the problem for materialism regarding these several features Unfortunately his approach is to propose that the universe has a non material teleological aspect somewhat prior to its material component This is just bizarre This sort of Platonic understanding has its own intractable problems and doesn't advance the materialist explanatory power enough to pay the price demanded by its ontic import Theism has much greater explanatory scope and power and resolves the issues Nagel struggles to comprehend for the same increase to the materialist ontology His shallow dismissal of theistic arguments is unbecoming One cannot help but wonder if Nagel has let his openly admitted desire to avoid theism obscure his keen intellect when he ponders the resolution to his conundrum I recommend this book to materialists who are committed to seeking true understanding Nagel is not a lightweight and the problems he admits for materialism are very real The book is approachable for someone with only a basic level of philosophical understanding yet rewarding for those who are already familiar with the debate on these matters Otter Chaos! (Otter Chaos universe do not sit will with materialism and are The Illusionists unlikely to ever be explained in materialistic terms For things like O Último Testamento (Maggie Costello, ualia there seems to be an One for My Baby uncrossable ditch between materialism and explanation Unlike most materialists Nagel does not go down the road of reductionism He truly seems to 'get' the problem for materialism regarding these several features Unfortunately his approach is to propose that the Paragon Walk (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, universe has a non material teleological aspect somewhat prior to its material component This is just bizarre This sort of Platonic We understanding has its own intractable problems and doesn't advance the materialist explanatory power enough to pay the price demanded by its ontic import Theism has much greater explanatory scope and power and resolves the issues Nagel struggles to comprehend for the same increase to the materialist ontology His shallow dismissal of theistic arguments is The Moon Platoon (Space Runners, unbecoming One cannot help but wonder if Nagel has let his openly admitted desire to avoid theism obscure his keen intellect when he ponders the resolution to his conundrum I recommend this book to materialists who are committed to seeking true The Echo (The Anomaly Quartet, understanding Nagel is not a lightweight and the problems he admits for materialism are very real The book is approachable for someone with only a basic level of philosophical The Asset (Wounded Warrior understanding yet rewarding for those who are already familiar with the debate on these matters

Thomas Nagel ✓ 6 Free download

In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable The mind body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind related aspects of reality then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general extending to biology evolutionary theory a There Is Another WayIs the self aware socially oriented language using persistently interpretive faculty that we call the human mind a product of the evolution of random chemical biological and uantum physical processes or is it the result of an act of a divine being? This is the intellectual choice as it is presented in popular debate religion or science But suppose that neither religion nor science can account for the facts as we known them Suppose that the intransigence of the human mind to explanation by psychophysical reduction or by ‘intelligent design’ are both fundamentally defective Is there a reasonable alternative programme of investigation?Thomas Nagel believes that there is And he makes a good case Nagel who is an eminent philosopher of science considers that religious opposition to reductionist science has done human thought a service by correctly identifying flaws in current scientific arguments which would be unrecognised without that opposition It appears in Nagel’s view that religious belief is provoking a new kind of Enlightenment an exposure of the pretensions and contradictions of a dominant but inadeuate mode of thinking Whether he us right or not is far less interesting to me than the novelty of the argument It is both refreshing and revealingThe premise of Nagel’s approach is that what we call ‘mind’ is not an incidental by product of the emergence and development of life but the central event of existence That is to say that not just living things but all existing things are directed by purpose This is called teleology and involves a very different analysis of the way the universe actually is its ‘order’ than the standard categories of cause and effect The teleological presumption is that the universe and all its components develop not like billiard balls bouncing off each other until they fall into a pocket but like the human imagination which continuously explores interprets and integrates itself with the cosmosTeleology is not a new idea Aristotle considered it an important method of analysis But since the Enlightenment of the 18th century teleology has been ignored as a general explanatory idea except in theological circles Only by a few scientist theologians has the teleological tradition been taken at all seriously One of these the Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin identified the creation of what he called the noösphere the environment of the spirit as the purposeful objective of cosmic development For his innovative and elegantly beautiful thought he was of course shunned by his fellow scientists and condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church Teleology on the scale of the universe is not easy to keep separate from religious belief It nevertheless does not imply a religious orientation This is what got Teilhard into trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors and long before him Spinoza and Joachim of Flores among others On the other hand the dominant conception ideology really of universal cause and effect is held by many scientists with what amounts to religious fervour Nagel does a good job of navigating between the Scylla of fundamentalist doctrine and the Charybdis of scientistic ideology It is a fascinating journey that any intelligent mind would benefit by taking One can only hope that Nagel has a better reception than Teilhard among such minds The Asset (Wounded Warrior untenable The mind body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind related aspects of reality then we must abandon a purely materialist Shadow of Doubt (Newpointe 911, understanding of nature in general extending to biology evolutionary theory a There Is Another WayIs the self aware socially oriented language Amazing Discoveries That Unlock the Bible using persistently interpretive faculty that we call the human mind a product of the evolution of random chemical biological and The Ruminator uantum physical processes or is it the result of an act of a divine being? This is the intellectual choice as it is presented in popular debate religion or science But suppose that neither religion nor science can account for the facts as we known them Suppose that the intransigence of the human mind to explanation by psychophysical reduction or by ‘intelligent design’ are both fundamentally defective Is there a reasonable alternative programme of investigation?Thomas Nagel believes that there is And he makes a good case Nagel who is an eminent philosopher of science considers that religious opposition to reductionist science has done human thought a service by correctly identifying flaws in current scientific arguments which would be Infamous unrecognised without that opposition It appears in Nagel’s view that religious belief is provoking a new kind of Enlightenment an exposure of the pretensions and contradictions of a dominant but inadeuate mode of thinking Whether he Comfort of a Man us right or not is far less interesting to me than the novelty of the argument It is both refreshing and revealingThe premise of Nagel’s approach is that what we call ‘mind’ is not an incidental by product of the emergence and development of life but the central event of existence That is to say that not just living things but all existing things are directed by purpose This is called teleology and involves a very different analysis of the way the A Cowboy Christmas universe actually is its ‘order’ than the standard categories of cause and effect The teleological presumption is that the Comfort of a Man universe and all its components develop not like billiard balls bouncing off each other Husband From 9 To 5 until they fall into a pocket but like the human imagination which continuously explores interprets and integrates itself with the cosmosTeleology is not a new idea Aristotle considered it an important method of analysis But since the Enlightenment of the 18th century teleology has been ignored as a general explanatory idea except in theological circles Only by a few scientist theologians has the teleological tradition been taken at all seriously One of these the Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin identified the creation of what he called the noösphere the environment of the spirit as the purposeful objective of cosmic development For his innovative and elegantly beautiful thought he was of course shunned by his fellow scientists and condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church Teleology on the scale of the The Bonny Bride universe is not easy to keep separate from religious belief It nevertheless does not imply a religious orientation This is what got Teilhard into trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors and long before him Spinoza and Joachim of Flores among others On the other hand the dominant conception ideology really of The Beleaguered Lord Bourne (Regency Trilogy, universal cause and effect is held by many scientists with what amounts to religious fervour Nagel does a good job of navigating between the Scylla of fundamentalist doctrine and the Charybdis of scientistic ideology It is a fascinating journey that any intelligent mind would benefit by taking One can only hope that Nagel has a better reception than Teilhard among such minds


10 thoughts on “Mind and Cosmos

  1. says:

    I had trouble at first making sense of this controversial book but after a while I thought of my autistic son Jonathan and it all came into focus Jonathan has a number of behavioral patterns which make life difficult for him and the worst of them is his love of Making People Angry As he explains in his disarmingly candid way Making People Angry Is Fun Ideally the people being made angry should be attractive women; these are described as Sweet And Pretty if they are under 30 or Beautiful And Exciting if they are older than the cutoff date As you can see Jonathan is ageist but chivalrously so Possibly under the influence of watching too many Elvis Presley movies he is a huge fan Jonathan sometimes hopes as a result of being Made Angry that the Sweet And Pretty women will Lie Down In His Lap It has never become clear what this would involve since Jonathan's carers particularly the Sweet and Pretty ones have made it clear that Making People Angry is Inappropriate and resolutely refuse even to talk about the possibility of any Lying Down In Laps But Jonathan continues to hopeAnd so to Mind and Cosmos I am afraid that Thomas Nagel a distinguished philosopher who definitely should know better also seems to be rather fond of Making People Angry Here he says a number of very Inappropriate things He casts doubt on the validity of Neo Darwinian evolution as an explanatory mechanism for the development of the mental faculties we observe in the higher species and in particular in humans He states that there is no reason to believe that life arose on Earth as a result of natural physical and chemical processes and impudently uotes authorities like Crick and Monod as supporting his position He dismisses the notion of a multiverse in two sentences which to provide added sting he puts in a footnote He argues that moral judgments have objective validity which humans are somehow capable of directly perceiving Worst of all he repeatedly uses the T word if you have not come across it this word starts with a T and ends in eleology and it is a very Inappropriate word indeed I strongly advise you not to use it yourselfI can only guess why Professor Nagel has been behaving so Inappropriately but I note that he repeatedly mentions the many interesting discussions he has had with Professor Sharon Street of New York University Professor Street has published several articles on evolutionary theory and its implications for theories of morality from which Nagel uotes at length Her position here is very different from Nagel's and I can well believe that some of his claims could have left her feeling a little Angry Looking at her picture it does not seem out of the uestion that an elderly male academic might consider her Beautiful and Exciting or perhaps even Sweet and Pretty One hopes that Professor Nagel is already behaving Appropriately in which case my advice will be superfluous If not I would recommend that he spends less time with the personable Professor Street who seems to have an Unsettling Influence and reads less Aristotle Possibly he would also find it therapeutic to write a seuel to his very popular article on the philosophy of being a batI ought to charge for this kind of thing


  2. says:

    There Is Another WayIs the self aware socially oriented language using persistently interpretive faculty that we call the human mind a product of the evolution of random chemical biological and uantum physical processes or is it the result of an act of a divine being? This is the intellectual choice as it is presented in popular debate religion or science But suppose that neither religion nor science can account for the facts as we known them Suppose that the intransigence of the human mind to explanation by psychophysical reduction or by ‘intelligent design’ are both fundamentally defective Is there a reasonable alternative programme of investigation?Thomas Nagel believes that there is And he makes a good case Nagel who is an eminent philosopher of science considers that religious opposition to reductionist science has done human thought a service by correctly identifying flaws in current scientific arguments which would be unrecognised without that opposition It appears in Nagel’s view that religious belief is provoking a new kind of Enlightenment an exposure of the pretensions and contradictions of a dominant but inadeuate mode of thinking Whether he us right or not is far less interesting to me than the novelty of the argument It is both refreshing and revealingThe premise of Nagel’s approach is that what we call ‘mind’ is not an incidental by product of the emergence and development of life but the central event of existence That is to say that not just living things but all existing things are directed by purpose This is called teleology and involves a very different analysis of the way the universe actually is its ‘order’ than the standard categories of cause and effect The teleological presumption is that the universe and all its components develop not like billiard balls bouncing off each other until they fall into a pocket but like the human imagination which continuously explores interprets and integrates itself with the cosmosTeleology is not a new idea Aristotle considered it an important method of analysis But since the Enlightenment of the 18th century teleology has been ignored as a general explanatory idea except in theological circles Only by a few scientist theologians has the teleological tradition been taken at all seriously One of these the Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin identified the creation of what he called the noösphere the environment of the spirit as the purposeful objective of cosmic development For his innovative and elegantly beautiful thought he was of course shunned by his fellow scientists and condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church Teleology on the scale of the universe is not easy to keep separate from religious belief It nevertheless does not imply a religious orientation This is what got Teilhard into trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors and long before him Spinoza and Joachim of Flores among others On the other hand the dominant conception ideology really of universal cause and effect is held by many scientists with what amounts to religious fervour Nagel does a good job of navigating between the Scylla of fundamentalist doctrine and the Charybdis of scientistic ideology It is a fascinating journey that any intelligent mind would benefit by taking One can only hope that Nagel has a better reception than Teilhard among such minds


  3. says:

    I am not sure when and where I first heard of this book but I do know it captured my attention when I read that the atheist evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker had linked to a negative book review of it with a tweet asking What has gotten into Thomas Nagel and announcing it had exposed the shoddy reasoning of a once great thinker followed by Leon Wieseltier's counter attack on Pinker Apparently controversy broke through the ho hum and I sat up and took notice The title of the book seemed to be a battle cry of sortsSome of what Wieseltier saidI understand that nobody is going to burn Nagel’s book or ban it These inuisitors are just professors But he is being denounced not merely for being wrong He is being denounced also for being heretical I thought heresy was heroic I guess it is heroic only when it dissents from a doctrine with which I disagree Actually the defense of heresy has nothing to do with its content and everything to do with its right Tolerance is not a refutation of heresy but a retirement of the concept I am not suggesting that there is anything outrageous about the criticism of Nagel’s theory of the explanatory limitations of Darwinism He aimed to provoke and he provoked His troublemaking book has sparked the most exciting disputation in many years because no uestion is primary than the uestion of whether materialism which Nagel defines as “the view that only the physical world is irreducibly real” is true or falseMy attention gained I began to read It became a read out loud at dinner book which was a very good thing since the book proved difficult to take in at many points It is a good book to pursue with a study partner Also it is the first book I've read as an e book The disadvantage of that was that it was easier to get lost in the text I considered buying a hard copy but used books weren't available yet and the book just wasn't compelling enough to make me want to rush out and purchase it new Techniues I used to avoid getting lost underlining Goodreads uotes and updates and the always useful rereading An e book advantage was that my husband and I are both on the same Kindle account so we each had a copy in front of usNagel did battle with scientific materialists over consciousness reason and value A synonym for consciousness is subjective point of view Sort of mind vs brain Reason is euivalent to cognition or knowledge Value is used interchangeably with motivation or choiceConsciousness as real in its own right rather than as emergent from brains matter is his foundation I had issues with that I was not at all sure he was conversant with all the research contributing to an understanding of consciousness as attention In other words we are aware of only that to which we are paying attention while functioning on automatic pilot otherwise I was sympathetic to Nagel's direction but found it overly based on his intuition as in I think therefore I amHis argument regarding reason that is logic was harder to refute If something is logically the case that seems to be a reality in its own right not something that grew as mankind evolved He used the example of traveling south and seeing the sun rise on one's right and knowing that either one is not traveling south or else the sun is setting not rising He seemed to be saying though that reason is in brains while it seemed to me that it's the ability to use reason that develops reason being a tool we discover So it appears I'm reacting like a Platonist when it comes to logicRegarding reason I also found myself reflecting that we often think we are using it but aren't; a study of rhetoric ie Words Like Loaded Pistols Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama shows what influences us while cognitive psychology ie Thinking Fast and Slow shows why Thomas Nagel does give lip service at least to the limitations of reason but I thought still had it on too high a pedestal The third leg of his case was value realism the idea that values like logic exist on a plane of reality separate from human nature or psychology That seems to entail a notion of values as universals and that what is good and what is bad has always been there Again I think of some of my recent reading for example Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion or Robert Wright's The Evolution of God and I just don't think so Not all groups or cultures are aware of all the sorts of values and those we don't consciously articulate tend to have an undue and unacknowledged influence Meanwhile individuals are ascribing universality only to the values they do acknowledge And values evolve For example the understanding that it is a misuse of power for an older professor or teacher to seduce a student is a relatively new belief or maybe discovery that has occurred within my lifetime No I don't think those were the issues with Abelard and Heloise; that was about Abelard's intrusion on Heloise as her father's propertyArguably even murder wasn't always wrong; that's one interpretation of the Cain and Abel story humanity had developed to the point that now it is wrongAt any rate Nagel wants to pin the concrete beginnings of good and evil on pleasure and pain Thus pleasure and pain have a double nature not just evolution and survival but also the source of value Unfortunately that sounds to me as though it could lead to a goodevil dualism and maybe the stylish charge of being Manichean? He does relate good and evil to life itself so why not just go with life as the value? For Nagel then value could be the progenitor of life rather than vice versa I am stating these arguments much too strongly as Nagel mostly argues that materialism couldn't be true rather than that realism is true That means his provocative title is something of a come on Michael Chorost writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education gets at thatIn short Mind and Cosmos is not only negative but underpowered as if Nagel had brought a knife to a shootoutMichael Chorost observes too that there are scientists who agree with Nagel's conclusion that the laws of nature include a teleological component that is a direction but Nagel ignores that in his portrayal of a set battle with scienceThat article was useful for me as it was Michael Chorost's criticisms that emboldened me enough to make a few of my ownI've benefited from the time energy and thought I put into this book which included reading his What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy as well but am not convinced that reading the works of philosophers is the best use of my energy It's their premises Although they may apply logic to their premises their choice of premises often doesn't seem all that logical For exampleNobody's perfect;I'm nobody; ergo I'm perfect Jokes aside philosophers' choices of the uestions sometimes do seem geared to further their preferred conclusions In other words I'm saying that philosophers aren't necessarily free of confirmatory as opposed to exploratory thinking the latter being thinking that seeks the truthI know I still need to learn what the great philosophers have thought but trusted secondary sources may be the best choice for me Some of my friends will be disappointed in that but I speak as someone who is no longer young and knows she doesn't have all the time in the worldMy favorite part of this book was his argument against the multiverse hypothesis It was in a footnoteAre there any alternatives? Well there is the hypothesis that this universe is not uniue but that all possible universes exist and we find ourselves not surprisingly in one that contains life But that is a cop out which dispenses with the attempt to explain anything And without the hypothesis of multiple universes the observation that if life hadn't come into existence we wouldn't be here has no significance One doesn't show that something doesn't reuire explanation by pointing out that it is a condition of one's existence If I ask for an explanation of the fact that the air pressure in the transcontinental jet is close to that at sea level it is no answer to point out that if it weren't I'd be deadI see I've neglected any actual discussion of whether life could have come about just on the basis of scientific materialism It seemed Nagel went into a lot of theorizing as to how that doesn't appear correct but here is an argument based on the improbability It's from an article by Alvin PlantingaBut someone will say the improbable happens all the time It is not at all improbable that something improbable should happen Consider an example You play a rubber of bridge involving say five deals The probability that the cards should fall just as they do for those five deals is tiny—something like one out of ten to the 140th power Still they did Right It happened The improbable does indeed happen In any fair lottery each ticket is unlikely to win; but it is certain that one of them will win and so it is certain that something improbable will happen But how is this relevant in the present context? In a fit of unbridled optimism I claim that I will win the Nobel Prize in chemistry You uite sensibly point out that this is extremely unlikely given that I have never studied chemistry and know nothing about the subject Could I defend my belief by pointing out that the improbable regularly happens? Of course not you cannot sensibly hold a belief that is improbable with respect to all of your evidenceHere is an article by Thomas Nagel that gives a flavor of his book showing how his words can range from the abstruse to the sublime As the reader can see I found many uotable uotes in this bookI almost forgot to mention that Thomas Nagel is an atheist This book then leads back to all the discussion in connection with my short but provocative review of The Evolution of God But really Nagel doesn't solve the problem of dualism to my satisfaction It occurs to me that the difficulty is not in the nature of life the universe and everything but rather in our difficulty thinking about themAlso as he says at the end of that article Mind I suspect is not an inexplicable accident or a divine and anomalous gift but a basic aspect of nature that we will not understand until we transcend the built in limits of contemporary scientific orthodoxy I would add that even some theists might find this acceptable; since they could maintain that God is ultimately responsible for such an expanded natural order as they believe he is for the laws of physicsIn other words some theists might find their views consistent with the sort of teleology he espousesAs for me I don't believe in a teleology by which the acorn already knows what it's aiming for that is the oak tree I believe in a teleology of everything that is sniffing its way along sorry for the anthropomorphism or worse and choosing as it goes I don't visualize an ending that is already written but a process that everybody can be part of and that we're all needed forAnd so for a final link here's Kazantzakis' The Saviors of God which I found in full onlineI haven't even read the whole thing but my husband once read a chunk of it out loud to me and it made an impression I think it's my theology too which I've also referred to as panentheism and probably it's related to process theology which I haven't learned anything about yet I know he gets to it via a different route but the key is struggleA little on the implications and significance of this bookAt the time of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries there was a paradigm shift or a paradigm flip such that theology which had been the ueen of the sciences along with metaphysics philosophy and so forth were dethroned in favor of what we now consider the hard sciences and scientific empiricism The new scientific orthodoxy said that what was internal and subjective was not important in effect not real That's usually viewed as progress from our vantage point It's worth remembering that one reason for the paradigm shift in the West was all the mayhem wreaked by religious civil war in Europe in the 16th century and first half of the 17th Thinkers didn't want the various Christian sects to have all that power to cause trouble The nostalgia some theologians have for a time of greater religious influence and the debate we have between science and religion today apparently hasn't effected much change in the current paradigm But as CS Lewis said every new learning is a new ignorance Scientific empiricism first said mind didn't exist and now tends to project out of its own narrative a diminished concept of mind I think what Nagel has done is highlight that narrative and say it's not reality it's just scientific empiricism seeing its own reflection Also he's sidestepped the realm of religion to stage his attack from within the atheist campI still have a problem with his using consciousness as his own foundation yet not taking into consideration new findings as to what consciousness is He himself has said that scientific results stand even if scientists have incorrectly interpreted what they mean so it seems to me he needed to struggle with those findings not just start with terms that ignore themUpdate Sept 3 2013 Steven Pinker's Aug 6 2013 Science Is Not Your Enemy A Plea for an Intellectual Truce from The New Republic issue of Aug 19This review began with Steven Pinker's controversial tweet; I've waited until I finished Mind and Cosmos before reading his Aug 6 essay which while not a specific response to this book is a general response to really all criticisms of science's role as the epitome of knowledgeI've seen Pinker uoted all over the place from The Righteous Mind Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion to Almost Christian What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church and one of his books The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined is on my to read list I accorded one of his fellow evolutionary psychologists Daniel Kahneman life changing impact and give plenty of credit to Jonathan Haidt too But I'm not impressed by this articleThe title sounded conciliatory but the article is full of nasty characterizations; Pinker never misses an opportunity for a jab at those with whom he disagrees It's either his way or the highway Religion is either fundamentalist for which he presents the usual straw men or it's what he thinks it should be secular humanist Science is the victim of unfair attacks on all sides by the humanities who resist letting science improve them Forget the War on Christmas; this is the war on scienceThere is only one way to knowledge and that is through empiricism Or sort ofPinker begins his article by holding up the Enlightenment thinkers Descartes Spinoza Hobbes Locke Hume Rousseau Leibniz Kant and Smith as great scientists all even though they lacked empirical data Yet now anyone who shortcuts empiricism is a phony pretender to knowledgeSounds to me like revelation occurred during the Enlightenment and now there is to be no revelation; the canon is closed That sounds suspiciously like a religion I don't think Pinker can see that it's the epistemology that's being uestioned how we know and the validity and foundation of knowledge I don't think he can get his head far enough out of the water of his faith in science to get his bearings He sees himself as having all the answers but is just leading us into polarization He lists all the dead ends that pass for knowledge faith revelation dogma authority charisma conventional wisdom and the invigorating glow of subjective certainty as though through science we can perfect ourselves into perfectly logical perfectly reasonable beings without those areas of fallibility It doesn't occur to him that one of those lacuna could have swallowed him upHe comes across as insecure with the best defense a good offenseWhat's the good of knowing all the evolutionary psychology he knows if all he can do is flail around and call names? That's what I loved about Thinking Fast and Slow; Kahneman did use what he knows to show the readerIt's a pity because Pinker does know a lot The invigorating glow of subjective certainty as the very personification of error that's so perfect But what good is all that knowledge if you can just yell at the blind not make them see?Update Sept 5 2013 Here is the link to Adam Gopnick's article Mindless the New Neuro Skeptics in the new New Yorker on a closely related topic


  4. says:

    Embarrassing There's no other fitting word to describe the argument put forth in this book by Thomas Nagel one of the world's greatest living philosophers Nagel's argument relies on the premise through inference that there is a pervasive immutable morality that characterizes the universe What evidence is there for this? Well as it turns out the evidence is his intuition Based on this intuition Nagel concludes that the Universe is not the cold materialistic relativistic entity that modern science accepts as a working tested model; indeed Nagel concludes that the Universe is teleological in other words that it is moving towards a goal an implicitly positive better reality than each that has preceded it In this he rather rashly echoes the least compelling features of Hegel and Marx Nagel reiterates time and again in this book that he is not attempting to subvert nor rewrite the laws of science Rather he claims to be on a purely philosophical enuiry the empirical nature of which has led him to the conclusion that Darwin is wrong because organisms have gotten on average complex over time Of course if one starts from zero complexity towards what other direction than complex could organisms go? In treading frightfully close to discredited Creationist twaddle Nagel is concluding that the foundations of science which operates on the testing of hypotheses and controlled experimentation are not applicable when it comes to the observable universe A bizarre ill considered and intellectually perverse book by an otherwise brilliant philosopher


  5. says:

    It's hard to believe the fuss that's being made over this book It's even harder to believe how a major thinker can present his views on what is arguably the central problem of the western worldview and exclude so much work that has been done towards addressing that problem Is it an academic turf thing or is it just that he's unaware of these advancements? Nagel takes on the age old mindbody problem how to reconcile materialistic science with the world of mind and consciousness and does so with courage and creativity Ultimately however he does everyone a great disservice by overlooking the advancements in mindbody science that have accumulated over the past three or four decades The revolution in our worldview that Nagel argues for in Mind and Cosmos is a revolution that has been going on for decades and has unfolded over the years in the form of various postmodern critiues of modernity and its views of materialism reductionism and determinismThe best place to look for these revolutions and their approaches to the problems Nagel addresses in this book are embodied mind cognitive science embodied cognition and complex systems theory also self organizing systems self adaptive systems and autopoiesis Both are labels for massively interdisciplinary endeavors that are being pursued by philosophers linguists psychologists neuroscientists biologists anthropologists and computer scientists The embodied mind approach in cognitive science is barely two decades old but recently it has been gaining mainstream attention because people are realizing that it points a path toward the kind of reconciliation Nagel argues for Here is a very partial list of volumes in these two interdisciplinary fields that have come out in the last 10 20 years that contain tons of new insights and perspectives that depart from the kind of materialistic naturalism that Nagel so rightly criticizes1 Mind in Life Biology Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind2 Out of Our Heads Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness3 The End of Certainty4 The Embodied Mind Cognitive Science and Human Experience5 Embodied Cognition6 Philosophy in the Flesh The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought7 Tree of Knowledge9 From Being to Doing The Origins of the Biology of Cognition10 Emergence and Embodiment New Essays on Second Order Systems Theory11 Also see my Embodied Cognition book list here on GoodReadsAnother reviewer also pointed out that Nagel overlooks developments in epigenetics and the advancements in neuroscience that continue to add to our overall picture of how the mind and the body interact Although Nagel brings in the possibility of a natural teleology as an avenue for reconciliation he doesn't address the overall problem of time and irreversibility in the natural sciences particularly in physics a problem that is at the heart of the materialistic worldview Two works which do address thermodynamic time head on are the important work of Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers on thermodynamic irreversibility done in the 1980s and 90s in Order Out of Chaos Man's New Dialogue with Nature and recently the excellent book by Eric Schneider and Dorian Sagan Into the Cool Energy Flow Thermodynamics and LifeOf course Nagel is a philosopher and so makes a fine philosophical statement Unfortunately that's not enough in today's interconnected world Today's intellectuals have to be interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary I hope Nagel's book interests you enough to delve into the works above and see for yourself the exciting new roads people have been traveling towards resolving the mindbody problemEdited on 2 14 19 took out the reference to Lee Smolin's book Time Reborn because I was mistaken it does not further the move towards a postmodern physics of uncertainty instability indeterminism chance chaos and time as irreversibility


  6. says:

    Much maligned in reviews misrepresented for the most part I'm inclined to think the negative response was indicative of dogma than of shoddy reasoning on Nagel's part


  7. says:

    Nagel and his other secularist friends sat down at table in the middle of a sunlit field Their eyes were closed tight but they supposed that they were open and imagined that the cakes of sand they were feasting upon were a steak dinner Then Nagel stood up as a blind prophet among a blind people and said Hey bros something ain't right here I'm pretty sure we're still in the dark Then Nagel stood up and rather than opening his eyes began blundering around in the grassy field looking for a light switch As he stumbled about he waxed elouent about what the light switch might look like and what kind of wall it might be built into His friends scoffed at him insisting that they didn't need a light switch After all they could already see everything The natives on the other hand suggested that he open his eyes After all then he could see where he was going Nagel remained unconvinced by either and continued his search Eventually he grew tired sat down and right before he fell asleep told everyone that while he couldn't be sure that the light switch existed he was sure that the search for it was worthwhile


  8. says:

    This is a short but deep book well worth a careful thoughtful read It offers a convincing and sophisticated argument that consciousness is explained neither as a side effect of brain activity nor as a product of intelligent design but rather that it probably exists both within and without the body The exploration of this important idea is very cogent and the logic sterlingI found this extremely exciting because the author's intellectual observations mirror my own empirical experience of nonphysical life which are so extensive that at this point they are a much richer part of my life than conventional existence as rich as that is However he does not draw the same conclusions as I do not by any means He ends with an elegant and frankly very exciting argument that a new vision of reality is essential to the human futureI could not agree and I urge the reading of this book


  9. says:

    I am not sure what I can add to a review of this book that has not been said before I found his honesty refreshing Though he has been a staunch materialistic atheist he is honest enough to admit that certain features of the universe do not sit will with materialism and are unlikely to ever be explained in materialistic terms For things like ualia there seems to be an uncrossable ditch between materialism and explanation Unlike most materialists Nagel does not go down the road of reductionism He truly seems to 'get' the problem for materialism regarding these several features Unfortunately his approach is to propose that the universe has a non material teleological aspect somewhat prior to its material component This is just bizarre This sort of Platonic understanding has its own intractable problems and doesn't advance the materialist explanatory power enough to pay the price demanded by its ontic import Theism has much greater explanatory scope and power and resolves the issues Nagel struggles to comprehend for the same increase to the materialist ontology His shallow dismissal of theistic arguments is unbecoming One cannot help but wonder if Nagel has let his openly admitted desire to avoid theism obscure his keen intellect when he ponders the resolution to his conundrum I recommend this book to materialists who are committed to seeking true understanding Nagel is not a lightweight and the problems he admits for materialism are very real The book is approachable for someone with only a basic level of philosophical understanding yet rewarding for those who are already familiar with the debate on these matters


  10. says:

    Roughly two months ago I happened upon a review of this book Later that day my upstairs neighbor a veteran epistemologist expressed ideas that sounded remarkably reminiscent of what the review had stated about Nagel's thoughts on the mind body uestion I told him about Mind and Cosmos and he was surprised to hear that Thomas Nagel held these views Later that week he offered to buy the book for me if I would let him read it and then read it myself I enthusiastically accepted his offerMind and Cosmos is primarily an exploration of the obstacles to finding an alternative world view to reductionist materialism which is the idea that the development existence and operation of all that exists including mental phenomenon can be reduced to physical laws Early on Nagel lays out a summary of the range of nuanced views within modern philosophy of mind from materialist naturalism to anti reductionism He then gives a brief case for his anti reductionism and states his objective My aim is not to argue against reductionism but rather to present the conseuences of rejecting it; to present the problem rather than to propose a solutionA uote from the second chapter called Anti reductionism and the Natural Order restates Nagel's objective If one doubts the reducibility of the mental to the physical and likewise of all those other things that go with the mental such as value and meaning then there is some reason to doubt that a reductive materialism can apply even in biology and therefore reason to doubt that materialism can give an adeuate account even of the physical world I want to explore the case for this breakdown and to consider whether anything positive by way of a world view is imaginable in the wake of itTo be clear Nagel is an atheist and not a proponent of intelligent design From page 25 Theism does not offer a sufficiently substantial explanation of our capacities and naturalism does not offer a sufficiently reassuring one Unlike so many new atheists though he does not have a militant hostility or arrogant contempt towards theistic views he just does not hold them himself On a related note he suspects that the reason the scientific community so generously assumes natural selection to fill in the gaps in understanding is because so many see it as the only available defense against theism The bulk of this work is Nagel's traversal of the realms of Consciousness specifically the experience of subjective mental phenomenon Cognition the ability to combine experience with reason to discern and grasp truths which transcend immediate sensory experience and Value which Nagel holds to be something objective and real For each of these phenomena he gives a brief explanation of and reasoning for his anti reductionist view and explores possible non reductionist explanations of its constitutive properties how does it work? as well as of its historical development He explores various categories of explanations laying out the challenges each would have to overcome For example explanations in which physical particles have mental properties in addition to their physical ones are compared to emergent explanations in which mental phenomena emerge from the functioning of complex physical systems He sees some sorts of explanations as comprehensible than others Ultimately we discover that Nagel favors a universe which has teleological laws underlying it He does not go into much detail regarding the form and content such laws would or could take although he suggests that they could favor physical forms and patterns which maximize the number of possible future alternatives This suggests a bi directional causation of some sortThe lack of elaboration on possible alternate world views left me a little unsatisfied at the end To be fair though Nagel did provide fair warning in the opening chapters that he would not give much in the way of proposed new paradigms but rather a case that we should be looking for them Perhaps this lack of satisfaction is his goal wanting to encourage further development from his audience Mind and Cosmos was my first dive into reading major work in the philosophy of mind As a newcomer to the subject some of the most interesting thoughts in Mind and Cosmos were those discussing how in science we prefer the explanation which is simplest and reuires the fewest arbitrary assumptions because we assume that the explanation which gives greater understanding is likely to be true just for that reason Nagel believes this cozy relationship between the natural order and our cognitive capacities to be at odds with a reductive materialism Much of his thought here was a further development of my own idle pondering over the years stated much lucidly than I ever hadI rather enjoyed the read as well as the many discussions with my neighbor the retired philosophy professor which both aided my understanding of the content and provided a larger context for it Nagel's arguments were powerful his writing elegant and he maintained a professional humility throughout