Mind and Cosmos

  • by Thomas Nagel
  • Narrated by Brian Troxell
  • 3 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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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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- CHET YARBROUGH "Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again."


Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, by Thomas Nagel is just awful. Doubly awful. The premise provided by the author, is intriguing; the search for our consciousness. What is awareness and from whence does it come. The book attempts to characterize reductive materialism or physicalism and provide a better understanding of sentience, in effect the study of the inner workings of the mind. The author though is too full of himself. Providing developed and artful words in his analysis and premises – but never bothers to define the terms. He then uses $20 dollar words profusely, and can pack seven or eight in one sentence. Worst of all, he never provides a framework by which to conceptualize his theories. Just a machine gun listing of his concepts and conclusions. He himself uses the word phenomenology but never describes his own study results by providing the developed recognitions upon which it is based. Nagel’s use of $20 words for the object of using big words provides only ambiguity and an unlistenable diatribe.

What makes it all worse is that Brian Troxell was probably ordered to get this seven hour book read in three hours and forty five minutes. He did it but it took speed reading to get it done. What an ultimately perplexing but absorbing subject and it is a topic I would like to learn about but this is not the edition to employ for learning.

Okay, so I didn’t like Nagel’s literary process and thought the book was poorly read. I think studying what is and from where comes awareness is a necessary concept to research and study, but this work of Nagel’s is just not worth the effort. Another reviewer provided this following: How Nagel replaces reductive materialism is interesting, but his reasons for replacing it are misinformed and illogical. That was right on.

In fact, if you want a better synopsis of physicalism, read Amen-Ra's (an Audible commentator) review of the book. It's better than reading Mind and Cosmos.
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- J.B. "Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-04-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios