Mind and Cosmos, in brief

August 23, 2013

Thomas Nagel’s recent book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False has been creating quite a stir. I had planned, and sort of still hope, to read it, although there have been enough reviews for me to grasp the general line of argument.

Nagel has made things even easier this week by contributing a brief summary of his argument to the New York Times. He argues that the conception of matter with which the physical sciences have worked since the scientific revolution is an abstraction that does not capture all of the actual properties of matter, and that the bits left out are necessary to a scientific account of mind and consciousness:

This means that the scientific outlook, if it aspires to a more complete understanding of nature, must expand to include theories capable of explaining the appearance in the universe of mental phenomena and the subjective points of view in which they occur – theories of a different type from any we have seen so far.

It’s an interesting line of argument, though naturally it runs up against a lot of resistance in some circles. Read the whole thing.

For a better understanding of the principal claims and arguments of the book, as well as the principal objections that have been raised against it and some possible responses to them, you might consider looking at Edward Feser’s round-up, in which he more or less defends Nagel against his critics.

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