Before philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote this in the most current edition of the Times Literary Supplement about Stephen Meyer’s new book (ticking off a lot of atheists), he wrote this, in the New Republic, in late 2006, concerning philosophical naturalism’s reductionist project:
I believe the project is doomed – that conscious experience, thought, values, and so forth are not illusions, even though they cannot be identified with physical facts.
And yet Nagel also acknowledged that:
Any anti-reductionist view leaves us with very serious problems about how the mutually irreducible types of truths about the world are related. At least part of the truth about us is that we are physical organisms composed of ordinary chemical elements. If thinking, feeling and valuing aren’t merely complicated physical states of the organism, what are they? What is their relation to the brain processes on which they seem to depend? More: if evolution is a purely physical causal process, how can it have brought into existence conscious beings?
I see the anti-reductionist’s explanatory dead-ends as well, but I’m still glad to see so prominent a philosopher giving non-reductionist ideas consideration. I too have been toying with the thesis that mind might not reduce to matter (because strict naturalism seems so inadequate). And so I ask (with Nagel): What if mental things can’t be reduced to physical things? What, in other words, if there are two independent ontological mysteries (mysteries of being): the physical and the mental? I know. This is dualism. But given strict naturalism’s serious problems, does dualism deserve a second look? Maybe, for example, we should posit that free will really exists. Is that just crazy? Or are we, indeed, actors crashing the “determinate atoms dancing in the void” party?
Free will is in the house?