Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False
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, 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. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the 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 more specific application to the phenomena of consciousness, cognition, and value. The conclusion is that physics cannot be the theory of everything.
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I have loved Nagel. "What is it like to be a bat?" is one of my favorite essays.
He should have stuck to science-light philosophy. He portends to be an expert on science, of which he clearly knows little. It was shocking to see the degree to which he is scientifically illiterate.
I was sure I was going to love this book. One of his main goals was to challenge the stagnant ideas put forth by the neo-Darwinists, which, at this point, only serve to anchor the theory of evolution. The theory needs to progress but will be unable to do so until Dawkins is no longer front and center. So, do I agree with Nagel that Dawkins is incorrect and irrelevant? Yes, but we have come to the same conclusion for completely different reasons. Nagel is not the answer to the neo-Darwinian problems. Despite wanting to love this book, it was not possible.