Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thank You Nagel

All my Catholic sensibilities are rejoicing at the words of Thomas Nagel after Epicurus and Bertrand Russell; much like one rejoices at the taste of well-cooked familiar food after a meal of stale biscuits with weevils and water. Nagel begins his discourse much like the previous two philosophers did; with the assumption that the physical world exists (a nod at Descartes). Nagel connects with us his readers in his beginning assertion that all consciousness is affected by the body, which sends material messages to the brain. However, Nagel wishes to bring up the issue of the nature of the relation between mind and body. Is the mind something different from your brain, or is it no different. Nagel uses the sensation of the taste of chocolate to ask if when the neurons send their signals to the brain, if the taste of chocolate is a physical event. Nagel would like us to acknowledge that sensations and feelings are somehow different from physical events. Nagel comes to the conclusion that there must be some other aspect to the human mind than it's physical properties. He steers us away from dualism, which claims that there is a body and a soul to a being, which means that man would have two natures, one physical and one not physical, and finds materialism to be unfulfilling. Materialism would indeed say that all mental action is purely physical, while the dualist would say that there are two different experiences going on; one physical, and one spiritual, which has no connection to the physical world. However, Nagel says that a materialist can not answer the question, because it is ridiculous to suppose that a large number of physical events, however complicated, could be the parts out of which a taste sensation was composed. A mental whole can not be broken down into physical properties, because it has no parts to be broken into. It is immaterial! Nagel would like us to look at a third option, which supposes that your mental life goes on inside the brain, yet the experiences, feelings, thoughts, and desires, are not physical processes, which means that the brain is more than a physical object!!!!!
Wow
So, you are not just a body plus a soul, or a soul plus a body, but a union of some kind. Nagel I could kiss you. Even though, you leave us with nowhere to go with your dissertation, it is nice to see some sane thinking once in a while.

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