by Thomas Nagel, read in 2016
8. "at some point it will be necessary to make a new start on a more comprehensive understanding that includes the mind."
I think that time is now.
8. "the separateness of physical science, and its claim to completeness, has to end in the long run."
And, IMHO, quantum indeterminacy makes that claim to completeness false.
9. "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?"
The answer is by admitting that the realm of physical science is an embedded manifold as explained by Edwin Abbott.
10. "the coming into existence of the genetic code—an arbitrary mapping of nucleotide sequences into amino acids, together with mechanisms that can read the code and carry out its instructions—seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical law alone."
Yes! See my essay "On the Origin of the Genetic Code"
11. "the problems that these iconoclasts [defenders of ID] pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously.8 They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair."
13. "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 of physical facts—facts, however sophisticated, of the kind revealed by the physical sciences."
A good starting list of components of the non-physical world.
14. "Other forms of understanding may be needed, or perhaps there is more to reality than even the most fully developed physics can describe."
The obvious candidate for extension is the acceptance of the idea of the existence of extra, real, and astronomically large, spatial and temporal dimensions. This could accommodate vastly greater explanatory richness while at the same time allowing the physical 4D manifold we inhabit to be explained and understood just as materialist science has discovered it to be.
14. "If reduction fails in some respect, this reveals a limit to the reach of the physical sciences, which must therefore be supplemented by something else to account for the missing elements."
Extra dimensions could provide that "something else".
16. "But whatever may be the result, we must start out from a larger conception of what has to be understood in order to make sense of the natural world."
Yes. The "larger conception" could be extra dimensions.
17. "Nature is such as to give rise to conscious beings with minds; and it is such as to be comprehensible to such beings. Ultimately, therefore, such beings should be comprehensible to themselves."
We have to be careful not to overstep here. Comprehensibility comes in degrees. For example, do you comprehend how your cell phone works? Or how a Mars Rover works? Individually, we understand to some degree but the complexity overwhelms our understanding. Nevertheless, they are comprehensible to a multiplicity of specialists, each of whom completely comprehends and understands some part of the artifact in which they specialize.
20. It is assumed not only that the natural order is intelligible but that its intelligibility has a certain form, being found in the simplest and most unified physical laws, governing the simplest and fewest elements, from which all else follows. That is what scientific optimists mean by a theory of everything."
31. "The existence of conscious minds and their access to the evident truths of ethics and mathematics are among the data that a theory of the world and our place in it has yet to explain."
I think my world view can explain both: ethics by the identity of victims, perps, benefactors, and beneficiaries; mathematics by the proper choice of axioms and the realization that math is only meaningless tautologies which say nothing about the physical world.
31. "Since an adequate form of self-understanding would be an alternative to materialism, it would have to include mentalistic and rational elements of some kind."
I agree but in addition to those Aristotelian and Cartesian worlds it should also include a Platonic world and a spiritual world.
32. "But my thought is that they could belong to the natural world and need not imply a transcendent individual mind, let alone a perfect being"
I agree completely about the denial of a perfect being. But when it comes to transcendence, it depends on the definition of "the natural world" and of 'transcendence'. If the natural world consists only of our 4D continuum, then the individual mind is indeed transcendent. But if the Natural World includes higher dimensions, then the individual mind resides outside our manifold and is simply a part of the natural world.
32. "The inescapable fact that has to be accommodated in any complete conception of the universe is that the appearance of living organisms has eventually given rise to consciousness, perception, desire, action, and the formation of both beliefs and intentions on the basis of reasons."
I disagree. The appearance of living organisms is evidence of the existence and prior emergence of consciousness etc., but it does not imply that living organisms gave rise to those phenomena. Instead, I believe they existed long before the appearance of organisms and that in fact the organisms themselves are a product of conscious action.
32. "If all this has a natural explanation, the possibilities were inherent in the universe long before there was life, and inherent in early life long before the appearance of animals."
Yes. That is essentially what I am saying. But it goes far beyond a simple inherent possibility. It implies an extremely competent intelligent designer, engineer, and builder.
32. "A satisfying explanation would show that the realization of these possibilities was not vanishingly improbable but a significant likelihood given the laws of nature and the composition of the universe. It would reveal mind and reason as basic aspects of a nonmaterialistic natural order."
Yes I agree completely.
33. "All that can be done at this stage in the history of science is to argue for recognition of the problem, not to offer solutions."
I don't agree. Many of us have argued for such recognition and some of us are even prepared to offer at least approaches to a solution if not a solution itself.
35. "If we take this problem seriously, and follow out its implications, it threatens to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture. Yet it is very difficult to imagine viable alternatives."
It needn't unravel all of science. If we accept the mathematical implications of spatial (and even temporal) manifolds, then it becomes clear that if a world is an embedded manifold, then almost all evidence for extant structures that are outside (think "transcendent") the manifold is inaccessible to any structure inside the manifold. To components of reality inside the manifold, phenomena would appear exactly the same whether the manifold was embedded or not. Moreover, the existence of a (finite) hierarchy of successively higher-dimensional manifolds seems to be a natural expectation.
35. "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 to laws governing the relations among them."
Don't forget the limitation announced by Laplace that the external reality is limited to three spatial dimensions. That is true of our manifold but may not be true for a higher-dimensional embedding space.
36. "However, the exclusion of everything mental from the scope of modern physical science was bound to be challenged eventually."
Yes! I began challenging it when I was 5 years old.
41. "Conscious subjects and their mental lives are inescapable components of reality not describable by the physical sciences."
42. "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 nonconceptual connection, concealed from us by the inadequacy of our present concepts."
I don't agree that our present concepts are inadequate. Descartes' available concepts were inadequate for him. But we have the familiar concept of radio which could nicely explain a mechanism for a link between mind and body.
42. "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 appear accidental are in fact necessary. The evidence for the existence of such things is precisely that if they existed, they would explain what is otherwise incomprehensible."
Radio is exactly that kind of concept. It has allowed us to learn about the existence of galaxies and myriad other astronomical phenomena. It could serve equally well to explain a mind-body connection.
42. "Certainly the mind-body problem is difficult enough that we should be suspicious of attempts to solve it with the concepts and methods developed to account for very different kinds of things. Instead, we should expect theoretical progress in this area to require a major conceptual revolution at least as radical as relativity theory, the introduction of electromagnetic fields into physics—or the original scientific revolution itself,"
The revolution needn't be all that radical. The addition of the concept of electromagnetic fields together with our mathematical understanding of spatio-temporal manifolds should be sufficient to allow the development of a conceptual mechanism for mind-body interaction between a brain in our manifold and a mind in the embedding manifold outside. The example of a Mars rover with a completely physical structure on Mars acting autonomously but with all mindful conscious functionality which direct its behavior residing in a different world in a JPL laboratory on Earth provides an excellent model for a mind-body interaction. Descartes could not have imagined a Mars rover and here we have it handed to us. Let's go beyond Newton's clockwork and use a more up-to-date artifact as a conceptual model.
42. "We ourselves are large-scale, complex instances of something both objectively physical from outside and subjectively mental from inside. Perhaps the basis for this identity pervades the world."
Or more likely, subsumes the world.
45. "the materialist version of evolutionary theory cannot be the whole truth."
45. "This problem depends only on the assumption that even though reductionism is false, mind is a biological phenomenon."
I respectfully disagree. The problem exists even without that assumption. Furthermore, I believe the assumption is false. I believe consciousness is seated and exists outside the manifold in which biology exists and operates. Mind is a phenomenon which transcends biology.
46. "What kind of unified conception of the natural world would allow the explanation of the development of living organisms also to explain the development of consciousness?"
My answer is a plausible modification of the familiar project of developing and deploying an exo-planetary (i.e. beyond the Solar System) rover. The modification would be to construct the rover on the distant planet instead of in a JPL lab on earth. Only a minimal "seed" device is sent from earth. This device either contains a radio capable of communication with JPL or it is sophisticated enough to construct one from available exo-planetary materials. In either case, once the rover is constructed, it would operate in a purposeful autonomous manner as if it were fully conscious. Yet all consciousness associated with the rover is seated in JPL. "Conscious" biological organisms may be just such remotely controlled rovers. The knee-jerk responses to this proposal, of course, are that it simply pushes the problem to a higher level which is more difficult to explain and which is less accessible to our analysis. It also seems to invoke the dreaded infinite regress. But science has frequently made progress by being forced into difficult and inaccessible domains. Infinite regress can be answered by the example of nested Russian dolls. There are only a finite number of them and they get simpler as you progress through the hierarchy. As an example, the artifacts created by the JPL scientists are more complex and capable than the scientists themselves in such respects as speed capacity and accuracy. I expect that all aspects of Consciousness diminish as you ascend the hierarchy, evaporating at the final level similar to The Wizard of Oz.
49. "dualism, [...] would abandon the hope for an integrated explanation."
Not true. I think dualism is the only hope for a real explanation.
50. "What interests me is the alternative hypothesis that biological evolution is responsible for the existence of conscious mental phenomena, but that since those phenomena are not physically explainable, the usual view of evolution must be revised. It is not just a physical process."
With my embedded manifold hypothesis, this reduces to a simple question of semantics: does the term 'physical' refer only to our manifold? Or does it include the embedding manifold as well? If the former, then those phenomena are indeed not physically explainable. If the latter, then they are.
50. "If that is so, how much would have to be added to the physical story to produce a genuine explanation of consciousness—one that made the appearance of consciousness, as such, intelligible, as opposed to merely explaining the appearance of certain physical organisms that, as a matter of fact, are conscious?"
What would have to be added are the extra embedding dimensions which would house the seat of consciousness. This is analogous to adding planet Earth with its JPL scientists and their lab to a parochial Martian explanation of a rover.
50. "Without more, it would explain neither why particular organisms are conscious nor why conscious organisms have come to exist at all."
My hypothesis leads to a plausible explanation of both.
51. "At this point such a theory is a complete fantasy, but it is still possible to pose some questions about what it would have to accomplish—"
You could consider my hypothesis to be "complete fantasy" but let's test your questions anyway...
51. "why it did or did not have conscious life, and if it did, why it had the specific type of conscious life that it had."
There would be a spectrum of conscious capability among the different organisms allowing the conscious driver to interact with the organisms' behavior for teleological reasons. This would range from heliotropism in plants to the sophisticated design and development of human artifacts. It would also no doubt include some control over such problems as origins and morphology of the organisms themselves. Bear in mind that the interacting consciousness can no more violate the laws of physics in our manifold than JPL can violate the laws of physics on Mars. Just as in the case of the command signals sent to the rover, any interaction between consciousness and biological organisms would have to act by deliberately nudging certain specific quantum outcomes to begin cascades of consequent electrical and chemical processes leading to the intended results. Penrose and Hameroff have suggested a plausible mechanism for this.
51. "it would still leave the appearance of consciousness as an accidental and therefore unexplained concomitant of something else—the genuinely intelligible physical history."
With my hypothesis, this "appearance" was nicely explained by Edwin Abbott. It is because all appearances to us are limited to our manifold. Since "the genuinely intelligible physical history" contains important components that are outside our manifold, and which are consequently inaccessible to us, the appearance of consciousness remains unexplained as long as we continue to ignore those components.
52. "I believe that if A is the evolutionary history, B is the appearance of certain organisms, and C is their consciousness, this means that some kind of psychophysical theory must apply not only nonhistorically, at the end of the process, but also to the evolutionary process itself. That process would have to be not only the physical history of the appearance and development of physical organisms but also a mental history of the appearance and development of conscious beings. And somehow it would have to be one process, making both aspects of the result intelligible."
I believe my hypothesis satisfies all those conditions. The problem, though, is that the consciousness residing in the higher dimension now needs to be explained. Instead of invoking the dreaded "infinite regress" I think that the components of consciousness somehow diminish as you ascend the hierarchy of dimensions so that there exist only a finite number of levels and that at the top, consciousness vanishes completely leaving only utter simplicity.
54. "Given this vacancy in our understanding, what kind of explanation does it make sense to imagine?"
I claim that my multi-dimensional hypothesis provides a sensible and plausible answer. It satisfies all the requirements spelled out in the previous section.
54. "it is clear that any explanation will have two elements: an ahistorical constitutive account of how certain complex physical systems are also mental, and a historical account of how such systems arose in the universe from its beginnings."
Agreed. But we have to be careful using terms like 'historical' and 'beginnings' not to unwittingly make the unwarranted assumption that reality contains only one temporal dimension. And when describing the constitutive account, we must make sure not to inadvertently rule out extra spatial dimensions.
54. "The constitutive account will be either reductive or emergent."
The account using my hypothesis is both reductive and emergent. The reduction occurs not only within a manifold in the normal way of thinking, but also across manifold boundaries. In this case structures in a manifold are reduced to effects of structures in the embedding space. Likewise, emergence may be much more complex than the typical notion of emerging along a single temporal axis. It may involve many different temporal dimensions.
54. "if we stay with the assumption that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical, this will mean that the elementary constituents of which we are composed are not merely physical."
Penrose has suggested a nice way of bridging the reduction between the physical world and the mental world. That is by accepting the reality of yet another world: the Platonic world of ideas. The physical world is reduced to something like quantum fields which are reduced to matrices of quantum numbers. The ideas of matrices, the laws of physics and initial conditions expressed in terms of matrices, and the idea of numbers themselves, are all constituents of the Platonic world. These, then are reduced to thoughts or ideas originating and harbored in a mental world.
55. "while the principles do not reduce the mental to the physical, the connections they specify between the mental and the physical are all higher-order. They concern only complex organisms,"
This is true in my proposal. Except that the "higher-order" is higher and more involved than Nagel might envision; it involves extra dimensions and higher-dimensional complex organisms both in and beyond our manifold. The emergence occurs in higher dimensions and not in our manifold. Likewise, the emergence occurs in a different temporal dimension from ours as well.
55. "To qualify as a genuine explanation of the mental, an emergent account must be in some way systematic."
It is systematic in my explanation. Reality began in an ultimately simple state with no matter, energy, information, or consciousness, and a minimal number of spatio-temporal dimensions---probably zero or one of them. All the rest, including what we have "now" with our manifold and its embedding space, systematically emerged from that rudimentary beginning.
57. "this monism will be universal. Everything, living or not, is constituted from elements having a nature that is both physical and nonphysical—that is, capable of combining into mental wholes. So this reductive account can also be described as a form of panpsychism:"
This "neutral monism", as here described by Tom Sorell, is consistent with my proposal.
58. "all the elements of the physical world are also mental.16 However, the sense in which they are mental is so far exhausted by the claim that they are such as to provide a reductive account of how their appropriate combinations necessarily constitute conscious organisms of the kind we are familiar with."
The radio analogy provides a model for understanding how these "appropriate combinations" work in my proposal. Think of the radio instrument itself, with its physical wires, transistors, speakers, case, etc. as representing the physical world, and think of the sound of music, with its tones, melodies, harmonies, etc. as produced by musicians playing their instruments as representing the mental world. (I am indebted to Plato and his lyre for this idea.) It is a good analogy because the music cannot be found in the radio device nor is the device either necessary or sufficient for the sound of the music. In this analogy, the "appropriate combinations" of physical constituents are the antenna, detector, and amplifier circuits within the device. They cause the sound vibrations of the music to be produced by the speakers. But even that is not enough. There must also be a radio station transmitting an EM signal with the music information encoded into it. My proposal requires just such a hidden component which I claim resides in higher dimensions.
58. "Any further consequences of their more-than-physical character at the microlevel remain unspecified by this abstract proposal."
Yes, but they are specified in my proposal.
58. "The prevailing naturalistic answer to the historical question is the materialist version of evolutionary theory, supplemented by a speculative chemical account of the origin of life. The question is: What alternatives to this picture open up if psychophysical reductionism is rejected?"
My answer is the same sort of evolutionary processes but which take place in higher spatio-temporal dimensions.
61. "However, it is not clear that this kind of reductive explanation could really render the result intelligible in the way that particle physics or something comparable ostensibly renders the character and cosmological history of the nonliving material world intelligible."
Consider these definitions: Information: A difference that makes a difference to a knower. Knowledge: Information available to a knower. Understanding: The ability of a knower to encode knowledge into language. Intelligible: Said of a language construct describing an instance of understanding.
62. "Without something unimaginably more systematic in the way of a reduction, panpsychism does not provide a new, more basic resting place in the search for intelligibility—a set of basic principles from which more complex results can be seen to follow. It offers only the form of an explanation without any content, and therefore doesn’t seem to be much of an advance on the emergent alternative."
My hypothesis is not only systematic but quite imaginable. It offers reasonable answers to all the listed questions.
62. "Organisms are physical complexes whose existence and operation seem to call for reductive explanation,"
They certainly seem to call for an explanation, but not necessarily a reductive one.
62."and their existence and operation seem largely or wholly responsible for the existence of consciousness."
It may seem that way because of our parochial point of view as organisms. But if consciousness transcends the physical world and its organisms, then it makes more sense that consciousness is responsible for the existence and operation of the physical complexes.
62. "On the other hand, the idea of reducing the mind to elementary mental events or particles seems unnatural in a way that physical atomism doesn’t. The space-time framework of the physical world makes the physical part-whole relation immediately graspable, geometrically, but we have no comparably clear idea of a part-whole relation for mental reality—"
I disagree. We do have just such a clear idea. That is the relatively new idea of information theory and information processing. If we posit an embedding hyper-spatio-temporal environment, we have all we need to construct a theory of mental reality as an information processing system resident outside the brain which acts on the organism in a car/driver type of relationship.
63. "a mentalistic reductionism would presumably have to find the protomental parts in a monist counterpart of the physical parts of the organism, and would have to include a theory of how they combine into conscious wholes."
Yes. Here's how my picture of reality explains it: Consciousness exists in a finite Rosenbergian hierarchy of Natural Individuals (NI). Although there may be some exceptions, the hierarchical levels correspond to different spatio-temporal dimensions so that the lower NI exists in an embedded manifold of the embedding manifold containing the NI immediately above in the hierarchy. The higher NI is the designer, builder, and (remote) operator or "driver" of the lower NI. Spatio-temporal structures in the two levels are different but related. Mathematics can predict what those differences and relationships can and might be. Examples we are familiar with include the existence of 2-D surfaces and shadows in our 3-D world (manifold). The ultimate constituent at all levels is information. Or more correctly, since the highest level is devoid of consciousness, and thus lacks a "knower", the ultimate constituent is bare differences, or simply a bare difference. As you descend the hierarchy, conscious capability increases so "knowers" emerge. The constitution of the consciousness in the two (typical) NIs is different in two important respects: 1) the conscious capability or "power" of consciousness diminishes as you go up the hierarchical levels reaching zero at the top, and 2) the experience of qualia occurs in the NI at the higher level, presenting the illusion of consciousness at the lower level. This picture of consciousness seems to me to not only be plausible and understandable, but also to be consistent with all other proposals for the explanation of consciousness that I am aware of. It is also consistent with the theme of The Wizard of Oz.
63. "But this doesn’t help us to imagine a monist alternative to the materialist history of the origin and evolution of life, prior to the appearance of conscious organisms."
My scheme does. Since all NIs are designed and constructed by the NI immediately above (except for the very top one), in the temporal dimension of the operation of the higher NI, consciousness always exists before the appearance of the lower NI.
64. "a hypothetical monism that has expanded to encompass the mind is far more speculative, since it says only that there is more to the basic substance of the world than can be captured by physics and chemistry."
Yes, my scheme is speculative, but it says more than that. The existence of higher dimensions is guaranteed by General Relativity; the nature of the hyper-spatial environment is described by mathematics, including the inaccessibility of regions and structures outside our manifold; the existence of conscious beings in higher dimensions is indicated by such phenomena as NDE, Psi experiments, various OBE, etc. This is not much different from geology or astronomy in that in spite of the subject being out of reach for experimentation, there is still enough information available to formulate plausible theories.
65. "The object is to recast the explanation of the evolution of animal organisms so that it explains not only their physical character but also their consciousness and its character and functioning."
My scheme provides a more plausible explanation than materialistic evolution alone. With a conscious designer, albeit one who is limited to staying within the laws of physics inside our manifold, origins and special improbable structures are easily understood. Since physics is not causally closed in the quantum realm, an opening is provided for making small adjustments in chemical action as well as providing a pathway for a communication link between the consciousness in the NI above and the organism itself.
66. "But if we are trying to imagine a secular theory, according to which the historical development of conscious life is fully explained not by intervention but as part of the natural order, there seem to be only two alternatives:"
I am proposing a completely different alternative from those two. Instead of the false dichotomy of a secular explanation or a theistic explanation, I propose one in between. Instead of an Almighty God I propose a conscious being within the hierarchy of NIs that has far more limited powers. It should not even be called a God but more rightly simply an extended part of us. And it transcends the secular explanation by positing extra dimensions.
66. "In spite of the exclusion of teleology from contemporary science, it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out a priori."
Agreed. And neither should the existence of extra dimensions, or an extra-cranial seat-of-consciousness be ruled out.
67. "The teleological option is in many ways obscure."
It is not obscure but makes perfect sense in my scheme. If you acknowledge that the universe is not everything but only the manifold produced by the Big Bang and that the being with the intention resides outside the manifold, then teleological laws could be deliberately instituted that would govern only the manifold and direct the evolution of biological life as well as chemical and astronomical features of this limited "universe". It might help if we used the term 'universe' to refer only to the Big-Bang-generated manifold and the term 'cosmos' to refer to the higher-dimensional set of embedding manifolds.
74. "The question I now want to pose is whether our cognitive capacities can be placed in the framework of an evolutionary theory that is in this way no longer exclusively materialist, but that retains the Darwinian structure. It is a hypothetical question, since there may not be such a theory. But I will talk as if there were."
My hypothesis leads to just such a theory.
74. "...effective in theoretical pursuits that were unimaginable at the time?"
it is imaginable if the "imaginer" is outside the manifold.
74. "The second problem is the difficulty of understanding naturalistically the faculty of reason that is the essence of these activities."
It is not so difficult to understand if you consider it to be the result of an evolutionary developmental process, just like everything else in reality. You just have to enlarge your horizon to include higher dimensions.
75. "We want to know how likely it is, for example, that evolution should have given some human beings the capacity to discover, and other human beings the capacity to understand, the laws of physics and chemistry."
This is easily explained in my proposal the same way we can explain why some rovers can analyze the chemistry of Martian soil and other rovers cannot: They were designed that way.
75. "One can intelligibly hold that moral realism is implausible because evolutionary theory is the best current explanation of our faculties,"
It is no doubt considered to be the best explanation, but I consider it to be inadequate. It needs to be considered in a much larger context.
75. "and an evolutionary account cannot be given of how we would be able to discover judgment-independent moral truth, if there were such a thing.1"
It can be if we consider the moral truth to apply at the level of our manifold but the judgment resides in the next level up.
76. "The evolutionary explanation would have to be indirect, since scientific knowledge had no role in the selection of the capacities that generated it."
Not true in my proposal.
77. "Starting from an understanding of innate desires and aversions as immediate impressions of value—of what is good or bad for ourselves or our kin—the discovery of a larger, principle-governed normative domain, or domain of practical reason, in which these immediately apparent values are situated, can again proceed through the capacity to generalize and the disposition to avoid inconsistency."
This is much easier to understand and explain if you consider that "larger principle-governed normative domain" to be in hyperspace outside our manifold.
81. "To explain our rationality will require something in addition to what is needed to explain our consciousness and its evidently adaptive forms, something at a different level."
I suggest that Nagel take his own admonition seriously and literally: he should consider higher spatio-temporal dimensions.
82. "Then, with the help of cultural deployment and development, it might have risen to its current position of critical authority, correcting and often overruling the older promptings of perception, instinct, and intuition, and not subject to correction by anything else. Its entrenchment and eventual sovereignty over older instincts is comprehensible—but only if we can understand how such a thing can exist at all."
We can understand how it exists much more easily if we assume that it did not rise to that position of critical authority from the evolution of the material world but instead preceded it.
82. "This is the second problem: What is the faculty that enables us to escape from the world of appearance presented by our prereflective innate dispositions, into the world of objective reality? And what, besides consciousness, do we have to add to the biological story to make sense of such a faculty?"
These questions are answered by my proposal.
85. "Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself."
91. "I believe that teleology is a naturalistic alternative that is distinct from all three of the other candidate explanations: chance, creationism, and directionless physical law."
After Nagel's obvious attempts to be careful with his use of language, it is disappointing that he is so careless with his use of the terms 'intentional', 'theistic', and 'creationism'. He slips each of these terms into his text without defining any of them. Since the last two of them are so heavily burdened with social implications, it would be better to avoid them altogether, or at the very least to define them. I would suggest the following: connoting each of the three terms to require mind and mentality; that 'theism' entails a transcendent mind; and that 'creationism' be limited to refer to a perfect, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, and otherwise almighty God as imagined by the adherents of any of several religious sects as have been present among humans. In my opinion three important facts should be recognized and clearly stated. First, that a mind is a necessary part of the explanation for life. Second, that this mind is necessarily transcendent. And third, that the traditional notions of God are illogical and should be ruled out completely.
95. "But in the creationist picture, the natural order accounts for the physical possibility of DNA in the same way that it accounts for the physical possibility of an airplane or a telephone or a computer. Those possibilities are all explained by physics alone: it is only their actualization that involves a designer, and something analogous would be true for animal consciousness—a surprising way in which the protopsychic elements of the world can be combined. So biological and mental organization are no more part of the natural order in the creationist view than airplanes or telephones are. The laws of nature entail their possibility, but they do not explain their actuality."
This, in my view, is the most plausible explanation. It is unfortunate, though, that Nagel burdens it with the term "creationist" which brings with it the implications of perfection, infinitude, omnipotence, etc., all of which are unnecessary and obviously false. Another mistake is that his language suggests that consciousness is a property of the material brain rather than of the designer, which is obvious in the case of the airplane etc. The telephone example provides further insight: in this case the telephone instrument appears to "possess" consciousness to the human user even though we know full well that it is the person on the other end of the line that is conscious and not the physical instrument in our hand.
98. "Even against the background of a world view in which consciousness and cognition are somehow given a place in the natural order, value is something in addition, and it has consequences that are comparably pervasive."
The most obvious explanation comes directly from the world view which accepts Dualism and the reality of hyper-dimensional space-time. It provides easy answers to the "somehow" and the "place in the natural order". The "pervasiveness" extends into this bigger picture and value fits right in.
98. "In simple terms, the subjectivist position that I will contrast with realism is that evaluative and moral truth depend on our motivational dispositions and responses, whereas the realist position is that on the contrary, our responses try to reflect the evaluative truth and can be correct or incorrect by reference to it."
These are hardly simple terms. I am having the same sort of trouble understanding it that Feynman described having while trying to understand modern philosophers. It sounds like Nagel is saying that subjective value is based on what humans want, and that real value is based on some undefined "evaluative truth". That makes no sense to me.
99. "The subjectivist position is that the right answer depends on our attitudes and dispositions; the realist position is that our judgments attempt to identify the right answer and to bring our attitudes into accord with it,"
Nagel does not explain how the "right answer" is established in the realist case.
117. "What is the actual history of value in the world, so far as we are aware of it? Nothing in this domain can be regarded as obvious, but in the broadest sense, it seems to coincide with the history of life."
That observation. Is consistent with the hypothesis of a transcendent designer of life. Value reflects the intention of the designer to have life thrive.
117. "Eventually in the course of evolutionary history there appear conscious beings,"
With the hypothesis of a transcendent designer/builder, consciousness was present during the original design (which was not coincident with the beginning of reality.)
119. "what has to be explained is the appearance of the capacity to recognize and respond to reasons for action, and not just a general cognitive capacity."
With the Transcendent Designer/Builder (TDB) hypothesis, that appearance is coincident with the successful establishment of the two-way communication link between the material brain and the transcendent mind.
119. "real value, if there is such a thing, is as rich and complex as the variety of forms of life, or at least of conscious life. Just as most of these lives are only dimly accessible to our understanding from the inside, so the value they generate, positive and negative, is largely beyond our full appreciation."
You might say that it seems to be Transcendent.
121. "I will again set aside the hypothesis of an intentional explanation, even though it, too, could meet this condition."
It is a shame that Nagel sets this explanation aside. Intentionality is the most sensible option and it should be considered.
123. "The teleological hypothesis is that these things may be determined not merely by value-free chemistry and physics but also by something else, namely a cosmic predisposition to the formation of life, consciousness, and the value that is inseparable from them."
This, IMHO, is a vacuous explanation.
125. "in order to understand our questions and judgments about values and reasons realistically, we must reject the idea that they result from the operation of faculties that have been formed from scratch by chance plus natural selection, or that are incidental side effects of natural selection, or are products of genetic drift."
Agreed--as long as we understand that "chance", "natural selection", and "genetic drift" all refer strictly to our manifold. Similar processes operating in higher dimensions might very well be responsible, however.
125. "When we ask ourselves, for example, whether revenge is a true justification or just a natural motive, or what kind of weight we should give to the interests of strangers or of other species, we should think of ourselves as calling on a capacity of judgment that allows us to transcend the imperatives of biology."
Yes, and we should also transcend the domain of Physics.
125. "in the case of value and practical reason, I believe it is coherent to be subjectivist—to regard all impressions of objective value or objective reasons for action as illusory,"
Yes, but, the notion of illusion requires some "one" who is misled or fooled. Who exactly is that? In my opinion it only makes sense for it to be the real seat of consciousness. And I maintain that that seat transcends the physical brain.
125. "and to think of the processes of practical deliberation and moral reasoning as nothing but sophisticated ways of deciding what one really wants."
And again, it only makes sense for that "one" who "really wants" to transcend the brain.
127. "It would be an advance if the secular theoretical establishment, and the contemporary enlightened culture which it dominates, could wean itself of the materialism and Darwinism of the gaps—to adapt one of its own pejorative tags"
I like that!!
127. "However, I am certain that my own attempt to explore alternatives is far too unimaginative."
Indeed. That is my only real criticism of the book. You need to imagine hyperspace-time and manifolds.
128. "Wittgenstein was sensitive to this error, though his way of avoiding it through an exploration of the grammar of mental language seems to me plainly insufficient."
Yes. He needed to understand that syntax belongs to the brain, computers, books, and other structures in the material world while semantics is only found with the seat of consciousness outside the manifold.
128. "The empirical evidence can be interpreted to accommodate different comprehensive theories, but in this case the cost in conceptual and probabilistic contortions is prohibitive."
I disagree. It is not prohibitive at all. It may be true that we have milked science to near its limits. But we still have two more powerful tools, only one of which we have exploited. The first of these tools is mathematics and logic which we have exploited to great effect in the development of science. Now we need to exploit it further to understand our BB-initiated material world as an embedded manifold and to understand the possibilities for structures and processes resident in the higher-dimensional embedding spaces. The second tool we need to exploit is the familiar and personal direct access our minds have to the conscious experience. Currently, in the West, use of this source is typically labelled as pseudo-science, wu-wu, or worse, and then deliberately kept out of the scientific literature and ignored. Paranormal studies are embarrassing and shunned. Eastern contemplatives make a fair criticism when they ask how Western science can consider it ethical to claim to be studying the mind when few if any of the scientists involved has any experience, expertise, or training in meditation and contemplation.
130. "But substance dualism would still leave biology with a huge problem similar to the one we are discussing: namely, why has physical evolution produced organisms of a kind capable of being occupied by and interacting with minds?"
(Interactionist) substance dualism provides a simple answer to that "huge problem": it is for the same reasons JPL scientists endow their rovers with the capability of interacting with the minds of the JPL scientists.
130. "Presumably the answer would depend on assigning to the mental substance a part in the fitness of the successive organisms."
Yes, just as the JPL scientists play an important part in the fitness and behavior of the rover.
130. "But why minds of the appropriate kinds appear and attach themselves to organisms would remain a complete mystery, from an evolutionary point of view."
It isn't a complete mystery in the case of the rovers and it needn't be a mystery in the case of biology either for the same reasons.
"130. Henri Bergson’s conception of creative evolution postulated a similar tendency, but he thought of it not as an addition to the natural order but as the free creation of a universal vital force. See L’évolution créatrice (1907); available in English as Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell"
©2016 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.