File Name: thomas nagel mind and cosmos .zip
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- Mind and cosmos : why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false
- Mind and Cosmos
- The Most Despised Science Book of 2012 is … worth reading
Mind and cosmos : why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false
My runner-up this time is Rupert Sheldrake's The Science Delusion , though in fact it had a strikingly decent reception for a book also critiquing scientistic dogmatism. Steven Pinker dammed it with faint praise when he described it in a tweet as "the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker". All in all, Nagel's gadfly stung and whipped them into a fury. Disparagement is particularly unfair, though, because the book is a model of carefulness, sobriety and reason. If reading Sheldrake feels daring, Tallis thrilling and Fodor worthwhile but hard work, reading Nagel feels like opening the door on to a tidy, sunny room that you didn't know existed. It is as if his heart said to his head, I can't help but feel that materialist reductionism isn't right. And his head said to his heart, OK: let's take a fresh look.
To be sure, Nagel is far from siding with the intellectual cop-outs of intelligent design. Humans are addicted to the hope for a final reckoning, but intellectual humility requires that we resist the temptation to assume that tools of the kind we now have are in principle sufficient to understand the universe as a whole. The greatest advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world. This has permitted a quantitative understanding of the world, expressed in timeless, mathematically formulated physical laws, But at some point it will be necessary to make a new start on a more comprehensive understanding that includes the mind. It seems inevitable that such an understanding will have a historical dimension as well as a timeless one. The idea that historical understanding is part of science has become familiar through the transformation of biology by evolutionary theory.
The problems with this book begin with the provocative subtitle, bleeding into the introductory chapter and its polemical sequel. Nagel just assumes from the start that modern Darwinism is committed to materialist reductionism. Then he attacks evolutionary theory, as it exists today, for being reductionist. But metaphysical materialism and evolutionary theory are logically independent of each other, so the faults of the former do not transfer to the latter. He thus attacks a straw man. However, even if they did in fact hold that metaphysical position, the apparatus of Darwinian explanation is surely not committed to it. Nagel just conflates the two questions throughout his book.
Mind and Cosmos
This book 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, and 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 cos 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 adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such.
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The Most Despised Science Book of 2012 is … worth reading
As the title and subtitle make clear, Thomas Nagel's recent project is an extremely ambitious one; it is especially ambitious to attempt to tackle it in a very short book. Nagel thinks there is a wide consensus among philosophers and scientists around a certain view of nature, the 'materialist neo-Darwinian' conception, but that this view has proved radically inadequate. It has failed, Nagel argues, to provide adequate explanations for mind and for value, and these things are so central to an adequate picture of the cosmos that such failures constitute a fatal flaw. Of course, it is not just that no adequate explanation has yet been given, but rather, in Nagel's view, that there are systematic reasons for suspecting that none could be given. Nagel does not develop this argument from a religious perspective.
Nagel argues that the materialist version of evolutionary biology is unable to account for the existence of mind and consciousness , and is therefore at best incomplete. He writes that mind is a basic aspect of nature, and that any philosophy of nature that cannot account for it is fundamentally misguided. Nagel's position is that principles of an entirely different kind may account for the emergence of life, and in particular conscious life, and that those principles may be teleological , rather than materialist or mechanistic.
The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and 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, either. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such.
GPs implicitly treat their contact with patients as the meeting of conscious minds.