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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
5 out of 5 stars
By Alice Walker on 02-15-18

Intellectual honesty at its finest

As an evolutionary biochemist with a PhD from Harvard, I have worked over the past 17 years to dispel the myth among my colleagues and collaborators that the materialist Neo-Darwinian paradigm has the power to explain life, reason, value, etc, debating them until I'm blue in the face. I don't seem to get very far, even though they seem to be able to recognize that the sheer vastness of protein sequence space does present an insurmountable problem for the unguided self-organization of functional biosynthetic systems, not to mention the genetic code. But more often than not, they fall back to naturalism because in their minds, that's the only thing that is "science", and everything outside of this is "religion", specifically Christianity with all its right wing hypocrisy etc. Being open about my faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the propitiation of my sin, my colleagues often grant themselves an automatic trap door to escape the reality of my critiques of materialism and Darwinism: "you are motivated, at least in part, by your faith to think this way." I cannot deny that my worldview colors everything I see. I just don't think it's fair for them to think their position isn't influenced by an atheistic or other worldview that has the very same function. Nevertheless, reason and intellectual honesty are available to us all, no matter what your starting points in the discussion. Which is why I love this book. I will be recommending it to everyone I know who makes the brute assumption that only Theists should take the position that reductive materialist Neo-Darwinism has failed. I may not agree with Nagel's conclusions, but as a scientist, I would think it a victory for the community of evolutionary biologists simply to free themselves to openly discuss (not just over beers after work) and to search for a theory that actually explains the most self-evident and necessary parts of life: the mind and all that it produces.

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2 of 3 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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