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It is simply not good enough to argue that the evolution of life by ...
on 9 October 2014
This is very disappointing. Thomas Nagel is a philosopher whom I have very much admired for his writings on the relation between subjective and objective statements. His book The View from Nowhere seemed to me to show how one can reconcile the cold, formal statements of science with our own vivid experience of conscoiusness, free will, etc. But in this latest book he argues against the scientific explanation, by means of evolution by natural selection, of the existence of animal life with, at least in our case, minds and experiences. The root of his argument is that he personally finds it hard to believe. There are also conceptual arguments which seem to take no account of his own earlier work.
It is simply not good enough to argue that the evolution of life by natural selection seems improbable. To support this argument one would need to actually calculate some probabilities. Nagel does not begin to undertake such calculations. It is also not good enough to argue that an explanatory theory of life and mind must take a certain (vaguely defined) form. To deserve our attention Nagel would need to show us such a theory. He doesn't, and I don't think the book deserves my attention.