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Publisher's Summary

The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, 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, either. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. Nagel's skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative.
In Mind and Cosmos, he does suggest that if the materialist account is wrong, then principles of a different kind may also be at work in the history of nature, principles of the growth of order that are in their logical form teleological rather than mechanistic. In spite of the great achievements of the physical sciences, reductive materialism is a world view ripe for displacement. Nagel shows that to recognize its limits is the first step in looking for alternatives, or at least in being open to their possibility.
©2012 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By CHET YARBROUGH on 01-29-15

IS DARWIN'S THEORY WRONG?

Thomas Nagel believes Darwin’s theory of natural selection is wrong. Nagel suggests natural selection fails to encompass the concept of mind. Even though Nagel acknowledges biology and physics have made great strides in understanding the nature of life, he suggests the mind should be a starting point for a theory of everything. Nagel infers that science research is bogged down by a mechanistic and materialistic view of nature. Nagel suggests science must discover the origin of consciousness to find the Holy Grail; i.e. an all-encompassing theory of nature.

Without agreeing or disagreeing with Nagel’s idea, it seems propitious for the United States to fund and begin their decade-long effort to examine the human brain. Though nearer term objectives are to understand Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the longer term result may be to discover the origin of consciousness. Contrary to Nagel’s contention that natural selection cannot explain consciousness, brain research may reveal consciousness rises from the same source of mysterious elemental and repetitive combinations of an immortal gene that Darwin dimly understood. Brain research offers an avenue for extension or refutation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

"Mind and Cosmos" is a tribute to Nagel’s “outside the box” philosophical’ thought. Like some who say string theory is a blind alley for a theory of everything, natural selection may be a mistaken road to the origin of life.

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9 of 14 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Robbie on 01-21-18

Worth the "read." At times, difficult to follow.

I am glad I bought and listened to it, however, the arguments, at times, were too technical philosophically, and I felt a bit lost. Fortunately, I did, overall, feel edified by the book.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By s l bassett on 07-19-17

Garbage sound quality from audible again

Would you try another book written by Thomas Nagel or narrated by Brian Troxell?

The sound quality for most audible books is sub-par, but here it is abysmal - unlistenable. It's beyond absurd that, after all this time, audible sound is noticeably below that of cd-quality, but then why innovate or even make an effort when you're a lazy monopoly protected by amazon?

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2 out of 5 stars
By Michael Larkin on 09-26-16

Terrible narration

Any additional comments?

The content of thIs book is good, but the narration is terrible. Brian Troxell, according to a Google search, is an actor, not a scientist or philosopher. He may well be a good narrator of fiction works, and I wouldn't want to judge him on his performance in those (I haven't heard anything else narrated by him), but his voice isn't suitable for this kind of subject matter.

Why is the narration so bad?

First, it's far too fast and breathless; one gets the impression he doesn't have a deep understanding of the subject matter, but rather just knows how to read according to the rules of grammar. He also starts new sentences far too quickly, not allowing the implications of often quite dense previous sentences to sink in (possibly for himself as much as for his reader), and so one often finds oneself wanting to pause and go back -- which wouldn't be so bad if the whole book wasn't so dense all the way through, but as it is, it's a complete disaster.

Second, his voice is rather monotonic, possibly because he doesn't seem to be connecting with the rather dry narrative as he might do with fictional material. I don't think it would be impossible to read the book out loud in an interesting way, but it would need a narrator who engaged with, and understood, the work.

It might have been better (if still not spectacular) if he'd read it at half the pace. I think I'm going to have to return this title and go for the Kindle version, which I will be able to read at my natural pace so as to allow its meaning to be absorbed. I should have listened to the sample to have avoided my mistake.

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