On Thomas Nagel

There’s a great article in The Weekly Standard about Thomas Nagel. He’s the atheist philosophy professor who wrote the book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. He is really feeling the heat from those who have no choice but to cling to their superstitions about the universe. You know, it’s basically a combination of Star Trek (the multiverse) and X-men (punctuated equilibrium).

The Heretic: Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him?. I suggest you give it a read at The Weekly Standard website, but here’s a bit of it that I found particularly insightful.

Nagel’s reliance on “common sense” has roused in his critics a special contempt. One scientist, writing in the Huffington Post, calls it Nagel’s “argument from ignorance.” In the Nation, the philosophers Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg could only shake their heads at the once-great philosopher’s retrogression from sophisticated thinking to common sense.

“This style of argument,” they write, “does not, alas, have a promising history.” Once upon a time, after all, our common-sense intuitions told us the sun traveled across the sky over a flat earth. Materialistic science has since taught us otherwise.

Not all intuitions are of the same kind, though. It is one thing for me to be mistaken in my intuition about the shape of the planet; it’s another thing to be mistaken about whether I exist, or whether truth and falsehood exist independently of my say-so, or whether my “self” has some degree of control over my actions. Indeed, a person couldn’t correct his mistaken intuitions unless these intuitions were correct—unless he was a rational self capable of distinguishing the true from the false and choosing one over the other. And it is the materialist attack on those intuitions—“common sense”—that Nagel finds absurd.

Coincidentally, the new issue of Salvo has articles on both Nagel and on academia’s disdain for “common sense.”

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