Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thomas Nagel - A Horse In the Zebra Pen


I'm still reading through, slowly, N.Y.U. philosopher Thomas Nagel's controversial Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Remember that Nagel is an atheist. Fellow atheist and philosopher Michael Ruse has described Nagel as a horse who broke into the zebra pen. (See Michael Chorost, "Where Thomas Nagel Went Wrong.") Nagel, who seems not to care, has broken into the nasty pen of evolutionary naturalists who "are impervious to contrary evidence and alternative formulations." (Ib.)

Nagel is willing to side with anyone, even theists like Alvin Plantinga, who rationally arrive at truth. For example, Nagel writes:

"I agree with Sharon Street that an evolutionary self-understanding would almost certainly require us to give up moral realism— the natural conviction that our moral judgments are true or false independent of our beliefs. Evolutionary naturalism implies that we shouldn’t take any of our convictions seriously, including the scientific world picture on which evolutionary naturalism itself depends." (Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, p. 28; See Sharon Street,“A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value,” Philosophical Studies 127, no. 1 (January 2006): 109– 66.)

Evolutionary naturalism fails to provide a "transcendent self-understanding that does not undermine our confidence in our natural faculties." (28) While Nagel disagrees with Plantinga on the matter of God, he agrees with him on one of Plantinga's main convictions; viz., that on evolutionary naturalism we have no warrant for trusting in our rational faculties.