John H. Zammito at The Hedgehog Review:
“If there were a philosophical Vatican, the book would be a good candidate for going onto the Index.” It was a philosopher’s joke, the philosopher in this instance being the respected Cambridge scholar Simon Blackburn. But its swipe at a slim volume produced by fellow philosopher Thomas Nagel summed up a sentiment shared far less lightheartedly by many of today’s leading thinkers and scientists—so many, in fact, that The Guardian named it the “Most Despised Science Book of 2012.” And for what reason?
Well, most likely for claims such as this: “The dominance of materialist naturalism is nearing its end.” Or for the equally defiant assertion that materialist naturalism, so called, “will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.” Such jabs capture both the pious wish and the incendiary intent behind Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. But what exactly did Nagel intend, and what exactly has he unleashed? Was his book addressed primarily to experts—philosophical or scientific—concerning the legitimate frontiers of inquiry, or was it composed explicitly with an eye to broader political-cultural agitation?