Mind and Cosmos

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Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False
Mind and Cosmos cover.JPG
AuthorThomas Nagel
CountryUnited States
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
September 2012
Media typePrint

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False is a 2012 book by the philosopher Thomas Nagel.


Nagel argues that the natural and social sciences are unable to account for the existence of mind and consciousness and that the methodologies employed must be revised. He writes that mind is a basic aspect of nature and that any philosophy of nature that cannot account for it is fundamentally misguided.[1] He argues that the standard naturalistic view flies in the face of common sense.[2]

Nagel's position is that principles of an entirely different kind may account for the emergence of life, and in particular conscious life, and that those principles may be teleological, rather than materialist or mechanistic. He stresses that his argument is not a religious one (he is an atheist) and that it is not based on the theory of intelligent design (ID), though he also writes that ID proponents such as Michael Behe, Stephen C. Meyer, and David Berlinski do not deserve the scorn with which their ideas have been met by the overwhelming majority of the scientific establishment.[3]


Reviews of the book were polarizing, generating significant criticism from numerous scientists and philosophers, including from Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, and Elliott Sober.[4][5] Michael Chorost wrote that Nagel raised valid criticisms but did not sufficiently engage with the large – though not dominant – body of scientific literature related to natural teleology. Chorost also suggests the book would have received less criticism had Nagel not endorsed criticisms raised by proponents of intelligent design, despite Nagel's not having endorsed intelligent design as a solution.[4]

In an article in New Republic, Leon Wieseltier argued that Nagel was "not denounced for being wrong, but also for being heretical."[6] Philosopher Gary Gutting noted that despite the book's argumentative failings, praised Nagel for developing an "atheism that is anti-materialist" and called it a "refreshing change in our stale battle between science and religion."[7] Physicist Stephen Barr echoed praise for Nagel's boldness, stating that "we ought to be grateful that Nagel has been able to see so much “more of what is so evidently the case” than most contemporary philosophers."[7]



  1. ^ For the argument that mind is a basic aspect of nature, see Nagel 2012, p. 16ff.
  2. ^ Nagel 2012, pp. 5–6.
  3. ^ Nagel 2012, p. 10.
  4. ^ a b Chorost, Michael. "Where Thomas Nagel Went Wrong". The Chronicle Review. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  5. ^ Sober, Elliot. (2012). "Remarkable Facts: Ending Science as We Know It". Boston Review. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  6. ^ Wieseltier, Leon (2013-03-08). "A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  7. ^ a b Gutting, Gary (9 May 2013). "Nagel's Untimely Idea". Commonweal. 140 (9): 14–19.


  • Nagel, Thomas (2012). Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-991975-8.

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