Web Letters | The Nation

Do You Only Have a Brain? On Thomas Nagel

If only

One sympathizes with your concern that Nagel’s critique will be exploited by those who intend mischief. But if you want to guard against such mischief—or counter it—you’ll need to do a much better job showing where Nagel’s reasoning goes wrong. Take just one howler as an example: “approximately 1 percent of children born to women over 40 have Down syndrome. This fact is a perfectly adequate explanation of why a particular child has Down syndrome…“ Why does Bobby have Down? How on earth do you think that this statistic counts as an adequate answer to the question? The fact that it may be the best we can do just now doesn’t increase its “adequacy.” Surely we can do better. Indeed, recognition of the inadequacy of our present understanding of Down syndrome is at least one of the things that drive continuing research. Like I say: If you want to keep Nagel’s book—and its reasoning—from be exploited by mischief-makers, you’ll need to do a lot better, too.

C.C.D. Hernandez

Tulsa, OK

Oct 24 2012 - 2:18pm

Do You Only Have a Brain? On Thomas Nagel

Nagel’s critique of Darwinism

Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg say: “We take no stance on Nagel’s hypothesis that if our moral faculties are simply the result of evolution, they cannot be reliable measures of objective moral truth.” How can you possibly avoid taking a stance? For if Nagel is right, then a great many of us, i.e., all of us who believe in the existence of objective moral truth (and this would surely include many evolutionary biologists) will be forced to conclude that the evolutionary account is unsatisfactory.


David N. Levy


Oct 20 2012 - 10:43am