Thomas Nagel
Mind and Cosmos

Oxford University Press 2012


Nagel Mind and Cosmos 3
Keywords:
3
mind-body problem
8
Mind
13
consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose, thought, and value
35
Consciousness
41 I believe we will have to leave materialism behind.
44
making sense of the world.
50
The usual view of evolution must be revised. It is not just a physical
process.

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3 The mind-body problem is not just a local problem, having to do with the relation between mind, brain, and behaviour in living animal organisms, but that it invades our understanding of the entire cosmos and its history.
The physical sciences and evolutionary biology cannot be kept insulated from it, and I believe that true appreciation of the difficulty of the problem must eventually change our conception of the place of the physical sciences in describing the natural order.

8 Mind: The great advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world. This has permitted a quantitative understanding of that world, expressed in timeless, mathematically formulated physical laws. But at some point it will be necessary to make a new start on a more comprehensive understanding that includes the mind..

Mind, as a development of life, must be included as the most recent stage of a long cosmological history, and its appearance casts its shadow back over the entire process and the constituents and principles on which the process depends…

The understanding of mind cannot be contained within the personal point of view, since mind is the product of a partly physical process; but by the same token, the separateness of physical science, and its claim to completeness, has to end in the long run. And that poses the question: To what extent will the reductive form that is so central to contemporary physical science survive this transformation? If physics and chemistry cannot fully account for life and consciousness, how will their immense body of truth be combined with other elements in an expanded conception of the natural order that can accommodate those things?

13 Chapter 2: Antireductionism and the Natural Order
The conflict between scientific naturalism and various forms of anti-reductionism is a staple of recent philosophy. On one side there is the hope that everything can be accounted for at the most basic level by the physical sciences, extended to include biology.
On the other side there are doubts about whether the reality of such features of our world as
consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose, thought, and value can be accommodated in a universe consisting at the most basic level only physical facts - facts, however sophisticated, of the kind revealed by the physical sciences.

32 To sum up: The respective inadequacies of materialism and theism as transcendent conceptions, and the impossibility of abandoning the search for a transcendent view of our place in the universe, lead to the hope for
an expanded but still naturalistic understanding, that avoids psychophysical reductionism
. The essential character of such an understanding would be to explain the appearance of life, consciousness, reason, and knowledge neither as accidental side-effects of the physical laws of nature nor as the result of intentional intervention in nature from without but as an unsurprising if not inevitable consequence of the order that governs the natural world, from within.

That order would have to include physical law, but if life is not just the physical phenomenon, the origin and evolution of life and mind will not be explainable by physics and chemistry alone. An expanded, but still unified, form of explanation will be needed, and I suspect it will have to include teleological elements.

Boe: vgl. 88 – Deacon Absence

35 Chapter 3: Consciousness
Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science....The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size and motion, and the laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand - how this physical world appears to human perception - when assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like colour, sound, and smell were to be analysed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the mind of observers.
It is essential to leave out or subtract subjectivity appearances and the human mind - as well as human intentions and purposes - from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop.

37 In the dualist view, physical science is defined by the exclusion of the mental from its subject matter. There has always been resistance to dualism, but for several centuries after Descartes, it expressed itself primarily through idealism, the view that mind is the ultimate reality and the physical world is in some way reducible to it.
Idealism is largely displaced in later 20th-century analytic philosophy by attempts at unification in the opposite direction, starting from the physical. Materialism is the view that only the physical world is irreducibly real, and that the place must be found in it for mind, if there is such thing. The assumption is that physics is philosophically unproblematic, and the main target of opposition is Descartes' dualist picture of the ghost in the machine.

41 I believe we will have to leave materialism behind. Conscious subjects and their mental lives are inescapable components of reality not describable by the physical sciences. I suspect that the appearance of contingency in the relation between mind and brain is probably an illusion, and that it is in fact a necessary but conceptual connection, concealed from us by the in adequacy of our present concepts. Major scientific advances often require the creation of new concepts, postulating unobservable elements of reality that are needed to explain how natural regularities that initially appeared accidental are in fact necessary.

44 Even if consciousness is something that cannot be analysed in terms of the purely physical properties of organisms, its appearance still needs to be explained, as part of a larger project of making sense of the world.
Further, any such explanation must account for the fact that the appearance of consciousness on Earth and the different forms it takes are closely dependent on the evolutionary development of those physical forms of life that have consciousness. We do not know precisely which forms of life these are, but we can be reasonably sure that they extend far beyond our species. The evolution of life must be at least part of the explanation of the development and forms of consciousness.

Boe: selfs - apearance of "distinction" - autopoiesis, self-organisation, the beginning of a world of meaning - vgl. Deacon

The problem, then, is this: What kind of explanation of the development of these organisms, even one that includes evolutionary theory, could account for the appearance of organisms that are not only physically adapted to the environment but also conscious subjects?
In brief, I believe it cannot be a purely physical explanation. What has to be explained is not just the lacing of organic life whith a tincture of qualia but the coming into existence of subjective individual points of view - a type of existence logically distinct from anything describable by the physical sciences alone.
If evolutionary theory is a purely physical theory, then it might in principle provide the framework for a physical explanation of the appearance of behaviourally complex animal organisms with central nervous systems. But subjective consciousness, if it is not reducible to something physical, would not be part of this story; it would be left completely unexplained by physical evolution - even of the physical evolution of such organisms is in fact the causally necessary and sufficient condition for consciousness.

50
The usual view of evolution must be revised. It is not just a physical process.

Nagel Mind and Cosmos 56


Nagel Mind and Cosmos
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