Commonweal has a triple feature on Thomas Nagel’s much-discussed Mind and Cosmos with contributions from philosopher Gary Gutting, biologist Kenneth R. Miller, and physicist (and First Things advisory council member) Stephen M. Barr. Here’s an excerpt from Barr’s essay:
While Nagel rejects “psychophysical reductionism,” and believes mind to be as fundamental as matter, he rejects any form of mind-matter dualism. “Outright dualism,” he says, “would abandon the hope for an integrated explanation . . . and would imply that biology has no responsibility at all for the existence of minds.”
Instead, matter and mind must be seen as parts of “a single natural order that unifies everything on the basis of a set of common elements and principles.” In his view, the evidence “favors some form of neutral monism”—the idea that there is really just one basic stuff in nature, which has both physical and mental aspects.
Nagel may be right to reject dualism, but his reasons for doing so seem weak to me.
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