of books by Thomas Nagel
THOMA NAGEL (1937) is a philosopher on the theory of mind, politics and ethics. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University (NYU).
Indeed, modern science has so far failed to explain the mind and origin of life using a reductionist theory (in physics this being the theory of everything, in biology origin of life theories and evolution). There is an emergent property in Nature that cannot be reduced to a physico-chemical explanation. What ever will ultimately explain how the brain generates consciousness, will also explain how life started from non-living matter.
Nagel first contributed to this discussion with an essay titled "What is it like to be a bat?" Lacking a sense for echo locating, humans cannot possible experience the qualia of 'seeing' with sound*. Bats almost certainly do. We can measure neuronal activity in bat brains and neurons, but our reductionist science cannot describe the feeling of navigating with sound. Thus science lacks a theory of mind and reductionism is unable to help.
* Ultrasound images are an obvious why of seeing with sound using computer technology. Thus it is not difficult to propose that the bat brain, like a computer, could calculate images based on scanning the nearby surface of objects into an image.
June 27, 2013 / © 2013 Lukas K. Buehler / go back to Book Review Home