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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well justified and timely challenge to extreme materialism
Peter Hichens recently concluded a review of A.C. Grayling's recent book The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanismwith an interesting question. He said that the interesting question about God was not so much whether he exists or not, but why both sides of the argument want their answer to be right. Are protagonists on both sides of the debate more...
Published 15 months ago by Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin philosophical gruel
Nagel addresses an important subject and he deserves some credit for that. He states the basic problem, but he doesn't get much beyond that (as he himself acknowledges). Thus, though the book is short, it could have been even shorter.

There is indeed an intellectual void in the heart of modern science. Its most visible manifestations are the failures to...
Published 6 months ago by Moshulu


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars literally mind boggling, 15 April 2013
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not an easy philosophical read, but it will be my first port of call in any discussion about the origins of life and Darwinism. From a thinking sceptic!
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As to that - an honourable silence, 8 Mar 2013
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This a philosopher's book with the style that his profession demands. If you cannot read academic philosophy, and many find it emetic, then the book is not for you. However if you can bear with the way it is written it does touch important topics.

There are three views of the nature of the universe. Materialists, worshipping at the shrine of their absurd god 'pure chance', think it is all a purposeless accident, sound and fury signifying nothing. Theists think that God made it and runs it, that it has an intended purpose, a teleology in the jargon. Nagel rejects both of these, for reasons which are as plausible as most philosophical arguments. He takes the third line: that the universe is no accident and has a teleology. He thinks that this does not necessarily imply the existence of God. He is in good company; two and a half millennia ago the Buddha, asked about the existence of God, replied 'As to that I preserve an honourable silence.' Yet he was sure the universe had a teleology and a deep structure which could be understood, at least in part.

So Nagel seems to be a closet Buddhist. His book is Buddhism without the many and unhelpful accretions that it has gathered along the way, and in that it is to be commended. Many Buddhists believe that Mitreia, the next Buddha, is due imminently - any time in the next thousand years. I doubt it is Nagel, but perhaps he is doing a useful preparatory job.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hurrah for another eminent rank-breaker!, 26 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Hardcover)
I read Nagel's book with a growing sense of relief that finally an eminent philosopher has had the courage and self-belief to question the oppressive orthodoxy of academic biology,an orthodoxy sedulously fostered by a sycophantic press and swallowed by largely uncritical laypersons. This orthodoxy, call it 'naturalism' or 'materialism' or 'materialistic determinism' or whatever, has had its day as the only legitimate underpinning of scientific investigation, physics has seen to that; and Nagel gives a further sheaf of cogent reasons why this is so. These all turn on the universal human experience of consciousness and the simple point Nagel makes is this: if ordinary intuitions concerning conscious awareness, morality, intentionality and the like are at variance with the scientific ideology of materialism with its suggestion that 'in reality' we are simply mindless robots composed of insensate material particles, then what precisely makes it an obligation to bow to this consensus? There is absolutely no reason to believe that our ordinary intuitions concerning mind and its properties are in error; and if materialism cannot handle mind, too bad for materialism. The philosophy of materialism is, as philosophy, a dispiriting dead-end and anyone attempting to live by its conception of 'reality' (no-one does!) would be a psychopath. As a heuristic set of assumptions, on the other hand, it has been incredibly successful and enriching,for without it we would not have the technology to which we are all addicted. So what is the issue? The issue is one of confusion. It is the confused belief that the self-limiting heuristic assumptions of physical science constitute an exhaustive account of the nature of reality as such. They don't. This confusion is the principal reason why the oppressive orthodoxy of academic science - particularly academic biology - is both an orthodoxy and oppressive. As an account of reality, materialism is patently misguided (thanks, Nagel, for daring to point this out) so it can only be defended by fundamentalist believers - notably the crypto-religious Ayatollahs of Darwinian orthodoxy such as Coyne, Dawkins, Pinker et al. - with all the traditional weapons of the despot. So Nagel is to be commended for taking on this pack of dogmatists. It's time scientific investigation was freed to consider those aspects of our existence that mean most to us without the prejudice of materialism. I'm very attached to my mind and happy now to be allowed to consider it in its own right rather than being ordered to believe the sort of nonsense peddled by the likes of Dennett, to the effect that consciousness is the delusion entertained by an entity that does not exist (see something wrong with that?).
Unfortunately, Nagel does not do a good job of suggesting an alternative framework for further advance beyond materialism. His suggestion that a kind of natural teleology could do the trick is not convincing because it's exceedingly difficult to conceive of a goal to the natural world and to the processes of evolution without positing some sort of intelligence to set that goal. Perhaps positing just that will be the next step, despite the teeth-grinding that such a step would provoke in the ranks of the neo-Darwinians.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible reading, 22 April 2013
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This review is from: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Hardcover)
This short book is recommended as a rewarding read, revealing the gaping hole in the materialist conception of the world. Science’s great challenge is to find a conception of the world that has a place in it for the mind, and an explanation both of its existence and its emergence.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nagel's credo, 11 April 2013
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Prof Emmy van Deurzen (peak district UK) - See all my reviews
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Well worth reading for its courage to think and state the currently unthinkable. Controversial as his arguments may be to established philosophers Nagel nails it: we have to dare start from scratch and set aside scientific dogma.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not worth the effort., 11 Mar 2014
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John Ross "returningworm" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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All he needs to add is the word, yet. Looks profound but it isn't. Very overrated. Not worth the effort.
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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars don't waste your well earned money, 13 Jan 2014
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As someone who is curious about any new ideas in philosophy and science, the publisher's blurb and some of the customer reviews were enough to encourage me to buy. I was interested to see what new evidence had come to light to suggest that darwinian evolution was not the basis for the development of consciousness. If like me you are keen to explore all new evidence based ideas, let me save you the time (and pain, for this is a truly pompous read) searching for this yourself in this unworthy tome. The author's premiss for dismissing evolution as the driver for conciseness is his belief that this is "very unlikely" I kid you not. Not one shred of evidence is offered to substantiate his claim that there must be some other as yet undiscovered driver for the development of mind, the hypothesis, and entire book, is based on his personal dislike for the idea that mind could evolve. There is a vague attempt to suggest ill defined avenues that might be worth further investigation, but this is little more than whistling in the wind, no evidence, no science just metaphysical musing. Don't let the apparent academic language fool you, I waded through this non-theory to the bitter end, and never was a term so well deserved. There are no redeeming features in this exercise in pseudo intellectual onanism. If you are looking for evidence and science look elsewhere, only if you too don't like the idea humans are a product of the blind watchmaker and prefer to believe we are somehow a special case in evolution should you waste your money on this drivel.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting, 13 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Hardcover)
Richard Dawkins should read this. However, whilst it knocks down Neo-Darwinism it doesn't offer a clear alternative. Rather dense reading.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm.., 3 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Hardcover)
Starts well, promises much, but ultimately disappoints Although solutions to the problems that Nagel identifies are suggested, they are in no way developed or substantiated. Perhaps it would be said that this was no part of his project, but it, nonetheless, leads to an unsatisfying read and there is too little concretely proposed and argued for to constitute a starting point for a fresh account of life and consciousness.
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18 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A speculative philosophical step too far., 24 Jan 2013
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There are many reviews of Thomas Nagel's book Mind and Cosmos. I urge the reader to seek out those reviews other then the ones here if a more detailed criticism of a very complex subject is desired. With this in mind I shall keep this review simple and to the point. My star rating of two may at first seem harsh considering the stature of someone like Nagel, but it is precisely because of this stature and therefore the responsibility that comes with it, that the rating is justified; especially when it comes to producing a work under the umbrella of philosophy. Mind and Cosmos is a work of speculative philosophy,(a dubious title in itself), not philosophy. This point alone makes the rating justified when it comes to determining the relationships between science and religion let alone the future of those relationships as it is not the job of a philosopher and indeed thus, irresponsible of him, to even contemplate speculating on such matters.
It is not enough to make the feeble excuses, as Nagel does, of an honorable, if not unqualified intention of offering the ordinary man a viable alternative to current materialist thinking when that alternative is purely speculative, to be polite, or meaningless, bordering on the absurd to be blunt.
It would seem Mind and Cosmos is just one more of those knee jerk reactions to the current intellectual climate of reason over religion.
He writes on page 12,"Nevertheless,I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion." Does this mean, then, Nagel would also have us bestow our gratitude to the Flat Earth Society, David Ike, not to mention the fairy king and the like?
Let us not forget, science has never purported to be an alternative to anything, it just reveals to us the truths about the world as far as we are at the moment capable of discovering. Mind and Cosmos seems to have been caught up in the glare of what science has revealed that religion would have us believe otherwise. It would have been a far more noble attempt and a more productive use of time as a philosopher for Nagel to have had a go at his 'theory for everything', rather then to point out the already known, but forever moving boundaries of science. Darwinism, materialism, science, do not offer the whole picture, we do not need Mind and Cosmos to tell us. What they do give us are better tools to build a more flourishing world, one in which we make our own decisions rather than rely on a number of different texts written two or more thousand years ago, or worse still leaving it up to a spirit in the sky.
In conclusion, Nagel is correct in his conclusion that the road ahead is long winding and probably never ending,paraphrasing is words, don't we know this already? Surely it is better to continue without the shackles of the illusions of gods and monsters which science allows us to do and far better that we continue without the utter mess and confusion that lies within the pages of Mind and Cosmos.
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