- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (September 26, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199919755
- ISBN-13: 978-0199919758
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.7 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 228 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False 1st Edition
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"If evolutionary biology redraws its boundaries as this book says it must, then the dialogue between theology and science will be considerably altered." --Anglican Theological Review
"[This] troublemaking book has sparked the most exciting disputation in many years... I like Nagel's mind and I like Nagel's cosmos. He thinks strictly but not imperiously, and in grateful view of the full tremendousness of existence." -- Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic
"A sharp, lucidly argued challenge to today's scientific worldview." -- Jim Holt, The Wall Street Journal
"Starts with a boldly discerning look at that strange creature, mankind, and comes to some remarkable speculations about who we are and what our place is in the universe... The very beauty of Nagel's theory - its power to inspire imagination - counts in its favor." -- Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"An intense philosophical takedown of Neo-Darwinism and scientific materialism. It's a brave and contrarian book. Reminds me of Wittgenstein's remark: 'Even if all our scientific questions are answered, our problem is still not touched at all.'" -- E.L. Doctorow, The New York Times Book Review
"Nagel's arguments against reductionism should give those who are in search of a reductionist physical 'theory of everything' pause for thought... The book serves as a challenging invitation to ponder the limits of science and as a reminder of the astonishing puzzle of consciousness." -- Science
"Mind and Cosmos, weighing in at 128 closely argued pages, is hardly a barn-burning polemic. But in his cool style Mr. Nagel extends his ideas about consciousness into a sweeping critique of the modern scientific worldview." -- The New York Times
"His important new book is a brief but powerful assault on materialist naturalism... [Nagel has] performed an important service with his withering critical examination of some of the most common and oppressive dogmas of our age." -- The New Republic
"[This] short, tightly argued, exacting new book is a work of considerable courage and importance." -- National Review
" Provocative... Reflects the efforts of a fiercely independent mind." -- H. Allen Orr, The New York Review of Books
"[Nagel] is an avowed nonbeliever, but regularly enrages the New Atheist crowd because he is determined to leave open a space... for the incomprehensible, for the numinous... and writes very honestly about that." -- James Wood
"This short book is packed like a neutron star. I found myself underlining so much that I had to highlight some underlining with further underlining and flag up this underlining in turn. Mind and Cosmos is a brave intervention." -- Raymond Tallis, The New Atlantis
"Challenging and intentionally disruptive... Unless one is a scientific Whig, one must strongly suspect that something someday will indeed succeed [contemporary science]. Nagel's Mind and Cosmos does not build a road to that destination, but it is much to have gestured toward a gap in the hills through which a road might someday run." -- The Los Angeles Review of Books
"A model of carefulness, sobriety and reason... Reading Nagel feels like opening the door on to a tidy, sunny room that you didn't know existed." -- The Guardian
"Fascinating... [A] call for revolution." -- Alva Noe, NPR's 13.7
"The book's wider questions -- its awe-inspiring questions -- turn outward to address the uncanny cognizability of the universe around us.... He's simply doing the old-fashioned Socratic work of gadfly, probing for gaps in what science thinks it knows." -- Louis B. Jones, The Threepenny Review
"[Attacks] the hidden hypocrisies of many reductionists, secularists, and those who wish to have it both ways on religious modes of thinking ... Fully recognizes the absurdities (my word, not his) of dualism, and thinks them through carefully and honestly."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"Mind and Cosmos is a mind-provoking, challenging, and enjoying read which carries the mark of Nagel's unique blend of originality, elegance, and intellectual honesty." --Philosophical Psychology
"Mind and Cosmos is...extraordinarily ambitious. Nagel proposes not merely a new explanation for the origin of life and consciousness, but a new type of explanation: 'natural teleology.'" -- Inference: International Review of Science
About the Author
Thomas Nagel is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law at New York University. His books include The Possibility of Altruism, The View from Nowhere, and What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 2008, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy and the Balzan Prize in Moral Philosophy.
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Top customer reviews
I'm in no position to support or reject it. I don't have the intellectual toolkit and experience, so I will have to leave the argument there.
I will point out that this book requires some experience with studying philosophical argument. Having more than a introductory philosophy class will be helpful. However, Nagel is readable. He doesn't get bogged down in jargon. With patience and a dictionary a general reader can grasp his argument.
Nagel builds on this insight more thoroughly than any other thinker I am aware of. His claim in this book is that science, being objective and materialist, can make only a limited claim to a Theory of Everything (TOE) because it cannot explain essentially subjective phenomena. Awareness, in all its forms in life on Earth, is a cosmological fact as much as is matter, organized as it is into particles, stars and brains. Science is very successful at prying out the material consequences of the big bang, where each new level of complexity is built on the inherent properties of lower levels. Nagel has no criticism whatsoever of how the scientific enterprise is conducted; he simply questions its claims to completeness.
He is aware that his anti-reductionist project is essentially negative. He has no proposal for explaining how the universe evolved a subjective component, or, as he says, how the universe came to be aware of itself. But he does have ideas of how to shape the discussion. First, he is an atheist and does not accept theistic explanations. He also believes that consciousness arises from matter, but he insists that we face up to the logical consequences of this view: the material universe must have properties that lead to the creation of consciousness. This is a no bigger claim than saying quarks have properties that lead to protons, which lead to atoms, molecules and so forth.
And what are these as yet unrecognized properties of the universe? Nagel appears to find a teleological approach the most plausible. He finds, for instance, that the conscious universe has values, starting as simple animal behavioral responses to pleasure and pain and evolving into the complex value systems of human culture. So value must be an inherent property. He does not limit values to a striving toward goodness; he knows that a teleological universe must take responsibility for suffering as well.
Hopefully this very brief summary will encourage you to read the book. Nagel writes very clearly and the book is meant for a general audience. And if you, like me, have long been unsatisfied with explanations of consciousness by neuroscientists and materialist philosophers of mind, you will find this a satisfying read.
With that in mind, Nagel does a fine job of even-handedly questioning naturalism: the idea that consciousness came from matter rather than the theistic view that matter came from consciousness. Nagel begins by arguing that we should have problems believing Darwinian gradualism as there is not enough time available to produce the current complexity of life. But, most of the book is spent spotlighting the huge problem naturalism faces in explaining how consciousness (self-awareness and abstract thought for example) came from dead atoms. Two things rise above the angry reviewers: Nagel is a committed atheist and a naturalist.
Nagel is just trying to get the naturalists attention with an honest look at their model and asks them to rethink it in a broader sense. He gives no answers but opens the door to more honest philosophers and scientists looking at the problems within the current naturalist community for a thorough and honest examination of their position.
I find more heat than light in the negative reviews of this book. One might ask, "What are you afraid of?"
Most recent customer reviews
First the "writing." I put that in quotation marks because it doesn't deserve the courtesy of...Read more