Thomas Nagel: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, Oxford University Press, 2012.
Having mentioned this book in several previous posts, I thought this would be a good opportunity to repost (and significantly expand upon) the review I gave that book at Amazon. The original review may be found HERE.
I started out reading Nagel’s book with a considerable amount of trepidation, but discovered – to my pleasure! – that it was a much better work than I expected. Nagel’s primary thesis is that the idea of naturalism that is dominant in the physical/biological sciences is in desperate need of revision. Naturally, this means that, from its first appearance, Mind and Cosmos has been subjected to a great deal of vituperation from those who declare themselves to be on the side of science and the very naturalism Nagel is at pains to critique. Further, much of the hysteria and negativity directed against Nagel came about because he states at one point that he believes the “Intelligent Design” (“ID”) people have made a couple of good arguments. As one might expect, the above led to an astonishing amount of sharply worded condemnation from certain dogmatic atheists, who essentially accused Nagel of being a young-earth creationist and of selling the pass to religion. None of these claims is even remotely true, of course, and Nagel is very clear about this: he repeatedly and explicitly disavows any belief or interest in theological approaches. Such methods, Nagel is clear, “do not so much solve the problem as strangle it.” (This latter is Ernst Cassirer’s phrase, and neither mine nor Nagel’s. However, Cassirer uses it in an analogous situation – specifically Descartes’ appeal to the goodness of God to solve the problem of the mind/body dualism.) But Nagel is also clear that the mechanistic/materialistic approach to science faces some insuperable difficulties.