Bat man accused of going batty.

Well, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration! Thomas Nagel is an eminent American philosopher who is possibly best known for his anti reductionist essay from 1974,’ What is it like to be a Bat?’ What can we say sensibly from our human perspective about the subjectivity of another creature?

His latest book, ‘Mind and Cosmos’ has been on the end of a hostile onslaught for questioning one of the ‘ certainties’ of modern science- that existence was built from the bottom up and everything, including consciousness and ethics, can be explained as mere by products of random physical processes. Nagel’s claim seems, to me, to be fairly modest, and is based on humility about how much we really do understand about the way the universe works and what it is. How did life emerged from bundles of inanimate chemicals? How can non physical entities, such as minds, emerge from purely physical processes? How  can we be confident we are designed( by a visually impaired horolgist) with the ability to understand the universe which somehow spat us out? Such questions, clumsily put by me,  are ones he considers should not be ignored.

Being an atheist he does not think that the answer that a transcendent creator is responsible works, but instead suggests that there might be an innate ordering principle within the universe which we can’t yet perceive. His tentative conclusion is that the jury may still be out on some of the big philsophical questions, while many scientists are confident that they have been back at home sipping tea for decades. Hence the ire.

But   a warning; although the book is short, it is highly technical and not good bed-side reading.

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