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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Nagels book is provocative, interesting and important (Simon Oliver, Studies in Christian Ethics)

Nagels arguments are forceful, and his proposals are bold, intriguing, and original. This, though short and clear, is philosophy in the grand manner, and it is worthy of much philosophical discussion. (Keith Ward, The Philosophical Quarterly)

This is a challenging text that should provoke much further reflection. I recommend it to anyone interested in trying to understand the nature of our existence. (W. Richard Bowen, ESSSAT News & Reviews 23:1)

[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)

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)

[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)

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, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

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)

This is an interesting and clearly written book by one of the most important philosophers alive today. It serves as an excellent introduction to debates about the power of scientific explanation. (Constantine Sandis, Times Higher Education)

... reading this book will certainly prove a worthwhile venture, as it is certain to have an inspiring effect on the reader's own attitude towards mind and the cosmos. (Jozef Bremer, Forum Philosophicum)

Présentation de l'éditeur

In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable. The mind-body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies. If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. No such explanation is available, and the physical sciences, including molecular biology, cannot be expected to provide one. The book explores these problems through a general treatment of the obstacles to reductionism, with more specific application to the phenomena of consciousness, cognition, and value. The conclusion is that physics cannot be the theory of everything.


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Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 144 pages
  • Editeur : OUP USA (22 novembre 2012)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0199919755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199919758
  • Dimensions du produit: 21,3 x 1,8 x 14,7 cm
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1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par wolf christian sur 10 novembre 2013
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
An interesting position, but it is too ambiguous. If the Universe was not created by evolution alone, and no god was involved either, who guides this teological principles Nagel proposes?

At the end of the day Nagel criticizes Darwinism but he fails to come up with a convincing alternative.
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218 internautes sur 235 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
How the universe has come to be aware of itself 21 octobre 2012
Par Slow Reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Thomas Nagel is well-known for asking the question, "What is it like to be a bat?" I think it is a useful exercise to try to answer this question before reading his Mind and Cosmos. At dusk I see bats navigating expertly around trees and making precise changes of course to pluck an insect from the air. Bats evidently have as accurate a representation of three dimensional space as we do but with one crucial difference: it is constructed by a brain that relies on sound rather than light. Try to imagine that. Having a very detailed understanding of how neurons fire in the bat brain will get us no closer to understanding what it is like to be a bat. The same can be said of understanding human consciousness. A scanner that could show us the intricate patterns of neurons firing in real time would be a scientific (and aesthetic) marvel, but viewing the output would bring us no closer to understanding the experience of awareness, the meaning of the thoughts, of what it is like to be that person whose brain is being scanned. Material explanations cannot lead to the understanding of non-material consciousness.
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.
377 internautes sur 418 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Philosophy at its best 27 septembre 2012
Par Alexei Tsvetkov - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It galls me that the only reviewer who gave this book five stars somehow sees it as an argument for theism which is definitely not so. It treats theism more or less like it does materialism - not as a solution to the problem but as a way of explaining it away, in the particular case of theism simply by kicking the can further down the road (See Nagel's recent review of the new Alvin Plantinga's book in NYRB).
For me, however, the main thrust of its argument is against the currently prevalent physicalist reductionism which has been my own worldview for the past ten years or so for the lack of anything better. I have always been aware of the unease with which this approach treats the problem of mind and consciousness, tying itself into knots by either ignoring it altogether as a purely subjective realm of qualia or squeezing it into the general deterministic scheme of thing and denying the possibility of free will and moral choice.
It takes a lot of intellectual courage to point out that consciousness is not an ephemeral byproduct of the evolution but its essential component that begs to be included in every attempt of the exhaustive explanation of reality. Thomas Nagel is one of a few who possess that kind of courage.
And please, do not believe someone who calls the book "tidious". It is extremely lucid for this kind of philosophical work, reads like an adventure novel. A veritable marvel of a book, a rare pleasure.
206 internautes sur 240 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Have you left no sense of decency? 8 octobre 2012
Par tspencer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is an odd book by a very respectable, established philosopher. The arguments are sensible, responsible, and are shared more or less by a number of reputable scientists, yet the reader knows the book is a potential outrage to the gatekeepers of materialism. That is what is weird. It reminds me of the Army-McCarthy hearings when Joseph Nye Welch directly challenges the man himself ("Have you left no sense of decency?"), and instead of incurring suspicion...he gets applauded by everyone in the gallery! And so should Nagel. He merely points out that there is a Darwinism-of-the-gaps at work in much of the scientific community, and perhaps it is time to step back and take a more balanced, imaginative look at a world that in certain respects strongly resists a materialist-reductionist reading. Science is supposedly eager to upset everything, but in actual fact there are sacred limits to what some scientists (or self-appointed popularists of scientism) are willing to question. Nagel's own suggestions point toward a less-than-rosy teleological neutral monism. Honestly, I don't see what is so frightening about that, even for a God hater. The most "scandalous" thing about the book is that it credits (almost as a side note) ID people with asking some very good questions, and concedes that some form of theistic intentionalism is not preposterous given certain features of the world. He himself stays far away from theism for reasons he clearly states, but he is outrageous enough to forego insults. (Naughty Thomas, neither hot nor cold, fit to be spewed from God's mouth!)

The book is very carefully reasoned and at times not quite "popular" in its technicality. While it discusses the problems of the origin of life, it is mostly concerned with the challenges of consciousness, cognition, and value to materialist neo-Darwinianism. He treats each of these three in its own chapter and with separate, but interrelated arguments. Although free will is not a central concern of this book, he actually makes a very good point about it, which I would enjoy hearing more about in the future:

"Rational creatures can step back from [innate perceptual and motivational dispositions] and try to make up their own minds. I set aside the question whether this kind of freedom is compatible or incompatible with causal determinism, but it does seem to be something that cannot be given a purely physical analysis and therefore, like more passive forms of consciousness, cannot be given a purely physical explanations either" (84).

In other words, determinism of the rational will, if true, would not mean anything that we can understand. What would a non-mechanical determinism be? Purely passive epiphenomenalism is the only coherent materialist approach to mind, and it is a stretch at best. You can corner the mind all you want, but it will always be able to thumb its nose at you. (That's my opinion, any way.)

A great, modest, brave, sensible book!
138 internautes sur 161 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Very interesting critiques, but unsatisfying solutions. 21 janvier 2013
Par Philonous - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
**edited version 1.0**

Couple years before I read Mind and Cosmos, my friend invited me to his university (NYU) to attend Nagel's lecture in the course Philosophy of Mind. Ironically, Nagel was giving a lecture about the Chalmers' argument from the Hard Problem of Consciousness, which in hindsight felt like it foreshadows of what will happen in the near future. My friend once remarked to Nagel, "If it turns out that consciousness is, in some sense, fundamentally different from mere physical matter, then the whole scientific worldview of the cosmos will change". To my friend's surprise, Nagel responds with full hearted agreement. At the time neither I nor my friend have really read what Nagel had written before, so we did not take Nagel's response as any significant indication of he thought deep inside until I read Nagel's book Mind and Cosmos.

Aside from Nagel's elegant writing style, his thesis is very bold and radical when one considers that it is written in the backdrop of the intellectual climate of academic philosophy and modern science that is predominantly naturalistic. Furthermore, the scientific climate of evolutionary biologists seems to lean towards a kind of reductionism. Nagel's overall thesis is a bit complex, but it can be understood in twofold (Nagel did not make this distinction): the negative thesis and the positive thesis. The former consists in a critique of the materialist and reductionist interpretation of the theory of evolution, while the latter consists in arguing for an alternative naturalistic world-view that allows teleology to have its place in the natural world.

With the negative thesis, Nagel wants to argue that the materialist and reductionist interpretation of the Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is (almost) false because of the irreducibility of consciousness, the capacity of reason (i.e. cognition) to access objective reality (as well as the problem of intentionality), and the obviousness of value realism. It is important to emphasize that Nagel does not reject evolution, however he does reject the idea that the process of evolution should be understood purely in the light of materialism. What he argues is that If consciousness is irreducible, then according to Nagel the physical evolutionary process of natural selection, which happens at the genetic level, is insufficient to explain how consciousness is possible. Secondly, Nagel argues that the materialist understanding of evolutionary theory cannot explain why our cognitive faculties have access to objective reality. This is where it appears that Nagel is in agreement with Alvin Plantinga that the naturalistic evolution as understood by many scientists and philosophers implies that our cognitive abilities would be too unreliable to yield an objective understanding of the world (including the theory of evolution itself). Lastly, Nagel believes that, assuming that the materialist understanding of evolutionary theory is true, moral (or value) realism is incompatible with the Darwinian attempt to explain faculties of moral judgment by natural selection

With the positive thesis, Nagel tries to present an alternative view of naturalism. Surprisingly, Nagel insists that the teleological conception of Nature should be brought back with some modifications. Obviously, Nagel is not arguing for the elaborate classical scholastic or Aristotelian conception of teleology (although he seems to agree with some of its basics), instead the kind of teleology Nagel has in mind is the propensity or predisposition of the intelligible natural order to give rise to consciousness, reason, and value in the natural cosmos. This includes the idea of a psychophysical law which does not reduce consciousness to matter, but rather establishes the relation between mind and matter that is fundamental to the cosmos. This kind of predisposition of the natural and intelligible order of Nature precludes the idea that the capacity of life for consciousness, reason, and value is simply the byproducts of "chance" or "accident", since it makes it very likely that the natural world will yield life with consciousness, reason, and value. This is why Nagel said earlier in his introduction that the current scientific consensus on the origin of life seems implausible to him in so far as it goes against his common sense, it seems very unusual to accept the idea that life is simply the byproduct of some accident.

Nagel undoubtedly presents some very interesting philosophical problems with interesting implications, mainly that if the philosophical problems are not confined to philosophy but extends towards sciences, then the scientific worldview is incomplete. However, the critiques Nagel lays out are not without problems. For one thing, Nagel's arguments partially depend on his appeal to common sense intuition. What does this mean? I suspect what this probably means is that Nagel finds it hard to believe that our existence which displays the power of reason, consciousness, and values are merely "accidents" in the cosmic history, in other words our existence may not have been probable but it did happen. However, I don't think Nagel will gain any sympathy from his critics by appealing to commonsense given that throughout the history of science such appeals turns out to be wrong. Nagel's arguments in cognition are every bit problematic as that of Plantinga's. Both argue that evolution on the basis of natural selection seems unlikely to produce species with very reliable cognition, given that abilities are selected on the basis of fitness rather than truth value. If cognitions are naturally selected on the basis of fitness, then there is no reason a priori to think that we should expect to have a very reliable cognitive abilities; it might be reliable for survival purposes, but not really reliable for truth purposes. Nagel thinks that natural selection cannot explain why our cognition has the astounding power to access reality objectively, since natural selection can only explain why our cognition has the power to help us to survive. There are at least two problems with this: First, it is possible for human beings to use their natural abilities for purposes that were not "intended" by natural selection. The human hand is not naturally selected to paint or invent ingenious technology, but it is used for purposes not intended by natural selection. Likewise, the human cognition was initially selected for the purpose of survival, but it is possible that we use it for non-survival purposes such as science. Second, it seems that Nagel is unaware that evolutionary psychology has made significant progress in explaining human cognition, but this time it has explained why human cognition is significantly, but not fundamentally, unreliable when it comes to knowing the truth. The fact that our cognition is bombarded with abundant examples of cognitive biases from psychological essentialist bias (including attribution-situation bias) to confirmation bias apparently confirms that our cognition was naturally selected to be cognitively biased in order to survive. Such cognitive biases are highly unreliable in knowing the truth, but they have survival value. However, the cognitive biases do not render our cognition fundamentally incapable or impotent in knowing the truth. Even if we have cognitive biases, we still can know the truth but we have the tendency to select which part of the truth is relevant to our survival.

Nagel's argument against contemporary evolution in the section of values is probably one of the arguments I find to be problematic. Nagel uses Street's arguments to show that there is the Darwinian dilemma: if natural selection can explain the faculties of our moral judgment in terms of fitness, then there is no room for moral facts to explain our moral judgments. If our moral judgments are driven by fitness, then there does not seem to be any room for considering moral facts in themselves. In this sense, Nagel thinks evolutionary morality implies that moral realism is false. However, I do not think the argument is successful. Suppose that natural selection does explain why we have the faculties of moral judgment in terms of fitness, it does not follow from this that moral facts do not exist. What Nagel assumes is that moral facts play not explanatory role in our faculties of moral judgment if natural section does it all, but this is using Ockham's razor to deny the existence of moral facts. The problem here is that Ockham's razor does not deny things, but simply suggests that we should not "multiply entities beyond necessities", which means we should not postulate more entities than we need to explain the phenomena. This is the similar criticism that Walter Sinnott-Armstrong made in Moral Skepticism.

However, I cannot say very much about his value realism other than the fact that despite being aware of the problems of value realism he does not consider some of the arguments from the harshest critics such as J.L. Mackie. Nagel does not show that he is aware of some of the deep problems with moral realism, namely that it is difficult to conceive how they fit into the natural world. This is partly because Nagel rejects the materialistic understanding of the natural world, but even if one does reject the materialistic understanding of the natural world it is still difficult to see how moral facts can exist in the natural world since postulating moral facts can come close to postulating platonic forms. I also cannot say very much about his arguments in the section of consciousness since I pretty much agree with him that consciousness is the hard problem in philosophy, one of the strongest objection against materialism whether it is present is evolutionary selection or not.

While I am sympathetic with the philosophical problems Nagel poses to the materialistic understanding of evolution, I find myself strongly disagreeing with his positive thesis of the natural world. I can understand Nagel's problem with materialistic interpretation of evolution when it comes to consciousness, reason, and perhaps value. However, I cannot see how Nagel's alternative picture of the cosmos is any more plausible than the philosophical problems he pointed out to the materialism. This is in part because Nagel's alternative teleological picture of the cosmos is blatantly anthropocentric. While Nagel says that his teleological picture of the cosmos does not exclude animals, insects, and eukaryotes, it is obvious that within the teleological picture of the cosmos the species that is the converging epitome of consciousness, reason, and value would be homo sapiens (as far as we know, since there could be other intelligent species out there). What Nagel's teleological worldview implies is that if we were to go all the way back to the big bang, we should expect that around 14 billions of years from now the cosmos will yield homo sapiens as the end. In other words, the cosmos is meant to produce conscious intelligent life with values. I find this teleological picture of the cosmos to be highly implausible (though not physically impossible), given that teleology has been done away with ever since Scientific Revolution. Furthermore, Nagel's teleology would make this book seems to be more or less like the watered down secular or naturalistic version of Teilhard de Chardin's Phenomenon of Man, especially since Nagel's Omega Point would be living beings capable of consciousness, reason, and values. Nonetheless, analyzing the resemblance between them does not go further, but it serves to illustrate why I find Nagel's teleology to be potentially anthropocentric. One cannot help but notice that Nagel does not provide further positive arguments for his teleological alternative to naturalism when it seems that he should since there is a huge burden of proof on Nagel's position. However, I concede that the comments I made so far are not knock-down arguments against Nagel's alternative view, but rather I think the review I have written is meant to express concerns about Nagel's alternative view (among other things).

Overall, I find Nagel's positive thesis to be unsatisfying. I think his critiques are worth considering (despite my criticisms), especially given that Nagel shows that the problem of consciousness and intentionality extends to modern scientific theories of the world. Whether or not you agree with Nagel in the light of what you read in this review, I think people should try to read it for themselves to decide whether or not they agree with Nagel's arguments and conclusions. I understand why this book is controversial, but I don't think there is an excuse for uncharitable reading of Nagel's Mind and Cosmos.

***Some Reconsideration: Critical Postscript****
***re-edited version of the review***
There are some reconsiderations I must honestly make after a few months:

(1) I think Nagel overexaggerates the prominence of reductionism in science, especially in evolutionary biology. Theoretical reductionism is in fact quite rare in the sciences (i.e. reducing chemistry to quantum mechanics), whereas unification is often the goal that scientists aim for.
(2) Nagel's criticism on Neo-Darwinism is somewhat of a strawman, most evolutionary biologists are not Neo-Darwinists because they do not accept adaptationism. In other words, most evolutionary biologists do not think that *every* (or most) biological features are byproducts of natural selection, since there are other possible mechanisms such as genetic drift, kin selection, etc.
(3) Nagel seems to conflate evolutionary biology with evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychologists try to extend the law of natural selection, and other principles from evolutionary biology, to our overall psychology in order to explain our behavior (i.e. reproductive strategies or social hierarchy) in terms of adaptation. Evolutionary psychologists tend to be (but are not always) adaptationists about the mind, but not all evolutionary biologists accept this because one issue with evolutionary psychology is "just-so stories", in other words speculating explanations in terms of stories that are not easily testable since the brain is too soft to fossilize (nonetheless, evolutionary psychology has made significant progress by other means). In other words, our current theory of evolution does not necessarily imply strong-adaptationism of the mind, this is not confirmed yet. Nonetheless Nagel seems to believe that this is exactly what evolutionary biology amounts to.
(4) Nagel complains that the theory of evolution is incomplete because it cannot explain the nature of our mind. However, here's the problem: Every evolutionary biologists *already* know that the theory of evolution is incomplete to begin with because it has *not yet* explained our mind, that is why evolutionary psychology is still a frontier science in working progress, evolutionary psychologists are still trying to explain how the mind works. Read Pinker's How The Mind Works. Evolutionary biologists are still making more hypothesis to test the theory, so far it has been successful but they still have more progress to make. There are so many things it still has to explain, nonetheless it is a very successful theory. Nagel's critique, then, seems highly uncharitable and trivial. However, to be fair to Nagel, he is pointing out how the explanatory gap extends to evolutionary biology, but to me this is no different from saying the explanatory gap extends to neuroscience and psychology, yet we don't complain that neuroscience and psychology are deficient and incomplete because they are still frontier science.
(5) Nagel appeals to intuition many times, I think this is a hindrance to his position than an asset. I normally would not say this because I think intuitions are important resources (if not evidence) for thought-experiments and developing positions when empirical evidence are not available in philosophical problems. However, if Nagel is going to criticize the theory of evolution as well as the consensus of the community of evolutionary biologists, he has to do far more than just appeal to his intuition and base his entire argument on it. Otherwise, I'm not sure why scientists and philosophers with scientific leanings should take his criticisms seriously.
(6) Nagel gives a little too much credence to Plantinga's critique on the naturalistic version of evolution, he isn't aware that evolution explains our horrible epistemic rationality bombarded with cognitive biases. Ironically, Plantinga's critique is more or less a confirmation of naturalistic evolution than theistic evolution (or perhaps it's indeterminate between both). I think his reasons for being sympathetic to Plantinga's critique on naturalistic evolution are misguided.
(7) Overall, I think Nagel's critique on evolutionary biology is unwarranted and I think his sympathy with intelligent design shows how much he doesn't understand the nuances evolutionary biology.
(8) Nagel's teleology is much more modern than the aristotelian version, but nonetheless it is contrary to what we know so far about the world. He could have done much more to support his teleological vision, because if he is criticizing a worldview based on the best sciences yet present an alternative that is not based on our current sciences then his alternative is highly unconvincing and impoverished. The burden of proof is on Nagel to justify his alternative, it is unfair to say that he should not simply because he doesn't intend to do so.

I still respect Nagel, I still think his book Mind and Cosmos can be interesting to read, but overall I think what essentially made his book very problematic and disappointing is his unwarranted criticisms against the theory of evolution. In my opinion, he should at least have postponed publication, read more about evolutionary psychology/biology, and rewrite his book. I do not want to contemplate the worst case counterfactual scenario...
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5 stars for courage 15 décembre 2012
Par Perry Marshall - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
You've got to admire a guy who stands up against an entrenched, largely mannerless establishment and points out that the king, in fact, has no clothes.

This book opens a conversation that's long overdue. The book has some great soundbytes:

In response to those who say 'the universe requires no explanation, since there are infinite universes and we'd inevitably find ourselves in one of them' he replies:

"If I ask for an explanation of the fact that the air pressure in the transcontinental jet is close to that at sea level, it is no answer to point out that if it weren't, I'd be dead."

On page 83 he points out that humans value reason above physical circumstances or comforts, and the mystery of how our minds make contact with rationality cannot be explained by survival alone.

Nagel uses philosophy to touch scientific questions that have been raised by Hubert Yockey, for example, who shows that the origin of the genetic code is "possible but not knowable," because while it obeys the laws of physics, the laws of physics do not explain how any code comes into being.

On page 53 he touches on questions about the process of evolution itself - he argues for "abandoning the standard assumption that evolution is driven by exclusively physical causes." This thinking is very much in line with much of the field of bioinformatics and recent evolutionary researchers such as Jablonka, Shapiro, Kirschner and Witzany.

On page 106: "An adequate conception of the cosmos must contain the resources to account for how it could have given rise to beings capable of thinking successfully about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and discovering moral and evaluative truths that do not depend on their own beliefs."

I do have some criticisms. At numerous points he drifts into statements of purely his own conception of how things seem to be. I also think his dismissal of theistic philosophy is unwarranted. At one points he simply states that there is no evidence for God and then moves on with no further justification, as though the matter has long been settled.

Inferences to God and philosophical arguments for God are no more easily dismissed than anything else he argues in this book; just read Antony Flew's last work. Alvin Plantinga's review of this book is well worth a read, by the way.

It is inevitable that an author such as Nagel will be smeared by hardline Darwinists and New Atheists, who generally don't trouble themselves with such inconveniences as civility and dialogue. I give him 5 stars for the courage to take on a cabal of vocal and mannerless opponents.

I salute him even more for taking a middle position between the theists and materialists, knowing that he will get flack from both sides. Mr. Nagel, thank you for writing this book.
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