Friday, September 27, 2013

Douglas Wilson's Review of Thomas Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos"

Wilson wrote:
"Mind & Cosmos is subtitled 'Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.' When a book with this kind of subtitle comes out, written by a philosopher of Nagel’s caliber, and published by Oxford University Press, there should be no astonishment that it caused a stir. I wanted to note two very admirable traits of this book, and then engage at a couple of places where I think engagement could be profitable."
You can read Wilson's full review here.

I think I'll be adding this book to my reading list.  The "almost certainly false" is rather amusing.  Nagel raises the right question concerning the failure of materialism:  inability to account for consciousness, cognitive capacities, values and morals.  So, I'm curious to see what false "hope" he holds out for materialism -- but such qualification is typical of the skepticism of unbelieving professional philosophers  (it certainly keeps the profession going, for what that's worth).

Perusing the "Search Inside" feature at Amazon, I noted that Nagel (p. 4,5) is leaning to "neutral monism,"  a view posited by radical empiricist Ernst Mach.  Neutral monism is, at heart, a mere terminological shift -- it is just another more complicated version of attributive monism.  Some assert that neutral monism is the same as, or a very near kin of, idealism, phenomenalism, or panpsychism.   In any case, none of these can account for actual values and absolute morals (let alone unity/diversity, universals/particulars, individuals, space and time, among many others).

I plan to write on this version of "monism" in a future post. 

Update: The promised follow-up can be found here.