Thoughtful discussion of Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos

Philosopher Thomas Nagel recently wrote a book, Mind & Cosmos, which has caused quite a ruckus. The ruckus is due to the fact that he has long been a well-respected, influential philosopher, and yet this book challenges the adequacy of naturalism and evolution to explain our world. Many philosophers have risen up to defend this orthodoxy and have tripped over themselves in flagging Nagel’s errors. So it is nice to see what reads as an even-handed consideration of Nagel’s overall philosophical approach. Indeed, it’s convinced me to buy and read the book. An excerpt from the review, explaining Nagel’s “metaphysical rationalism”:

The starting point is this powerful proposition: “The intelligibility of the world is no accident.” That is, nature is at least in some measure rationally comprehensible. There cannot even be a hope for science without this premise, and that we have science is the strongest evidence of its plausibility. At the same time, nature has generated creatures capable of rationally comprehending it. In Nagel’s words, “Nature is such as to give rise to conscious beings with minds; and it is such as to be comprehensible to such beings.” And that is the heart of the matter: “The ability of creatures like us to arrive at such truth, or even to think about it, requires explanation.” We owe ourselves an account of “how the natural order is disposed to generate beings capable of comprehending it.”


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