We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Thomas Nagel may be the most famous philosopher in the United States—a bit like being the best power forward in the Lullaby League, but still. His paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” was recognized as a classic when it was published in 1974. Today it is a staple of undergraduate philosophy classes. His books range with a light touch over ethics and politics and the philosophy of mind. His papers are admired not only for their philosophical provocations but also for their rare (among modern philosophers) simplicity and stylistic clarity, bordering sometimes on literary grace. ..
another quote from the piece:
Materialism, then, is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go as far as materialists want it to. It is a premise of science, not a finding. Scientists do their work by assuming that every phenomenon can be reduced to a material, mechanistic cause and by excluding any possibility of nonmaterial explanations. And the materialist assumption works really, really well—in detecting and quantifying things that have a material or mechanistic explanation. Materialism has allowed us to predict and control what happens in nature with astonishing success. The jaw-dropping edifice of modern science, from space probes to nanosurgery, is the result.
But the success has gone to the materialists’ heads. From a fruitful method, materialism becomes an axiom: If science can’t quantify something, it doesn’t exist, and so the subjective, unquantifiable, immaterial “manifest image” of our mental life is proved to be an illusion.
Nagel's sin is to look through the telescope the other way.
Assistant VIllage Idiot
Even when things like information/entropy are quantified, it's not clear they are material.
But, I'm glad he's explicit in saying, "Materialism, then, is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go as far as materialists want it to. It is a premise of science, not a finding." Because a lot of people have been duped about this.
Thanks for posting this. I've not been up to date on my Nagel, but look forward to reading more. So much of this philosophical dialogue seems to flow from the well-studied mind like so much sap from a maple, that it requires boiling down to get to the sweet stuff. Looks like Nagel's sugar house is boiling some grade A...
I find this very instructive on many levels. The veracity with which the professor was thrown under the bus by his colleagues reveals the level of intolerance that pervades the ersatz tolerant classes. Wandering off the objectivist reservation comes with a serious price, in Hollywood and politics as in academia. Not only disparaged professionally, Nagel must now endure having his very sanity questioned by those who know so much more than everyone else. And all this for only leaving open the possibility of God, not even going so far as daring to believe himself.
Equally revealing, and more concerning, is Dennett's admission that thought-control is alive and well in the highest ivory towers of higher learning with this gem, "If we repeatedly tell folks that their sense of free will or belief in objective morality is essentially an illusion, such knowledge has the potential to undermine civilization itself, Dennett believes. Civil order requires the general acceptance of personal responsibility, which is closely linked to the notion of free will."
As if these tenured opinionists control the collective like some materialist marionette manipulators...