Whereas my First Things review of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos accentuated the positive, the first post in this series put forward some criticisms of the book. Let’s turn now to the objections against Nagel raised by Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg in their review in The Nation.
First some stage setting is in order. As I indicated in the previous post, Mind and Cosmos is mostly devoted to the positive task of spelling out what a non-materialist version of naturalism might look like. The negative task of criticizing materialist forms of naturalism is carried out in only a relatively brief and sketchy way, and here Nagel is essentially relying on arguments he and others have developed at greater length elsewhere. Especially relevant for present purposes is a line of argument Nagel put forward in what is perhaps his most famous piece of writing -- his widely reprinted 1974 article “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” -- and developed further in later works like The View From Nowhere.