Reality Conditions

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Review of The Last Word

Via Siris, I found an interesting review of Thomas Nagel's book The Last Word, in two parts. This is a coincidence because I bought the book only a few weeks ago, during my vacation in Buenos Aires. (It was in the secondhand book fair of Plaza Italia, just before going to play paddle and later having dinner in a crappy vegetarian restaurant. It cost me exactly 20 pesos, or about £ 3.70. The book, not the dinner. The dinner cost about 12 pesos or £ 2.20, which was way too much for its quality.)

I found the book to be interesting but not as thought-provoking, and perhaps more predictable, than Nagel's major work The View From Nowhere. I will post my own comments on the book in a few days when I have a little more time (and after some rereading). Meanwhile I will just make an observation on this paragraph of the review:

"But maybe atheists should be alarmed by fundamental and irreducible laws of physics. And, for that matter, the existence of anything at all. While it may be possible in principle to find some fundamental feature of the universe that satisfactorily explains the mind-world relation, both of these phenomena seem to stubbornly point beyond the physical universe. The fact that there is anything at all, and the fact that there is one particular set of fundamental laws of physics rather than some other possible set both seem to require something “external” to the universe for the explanation, if they are to be explained at all."

If the "physical universe" is defined as everything that is explainable by the fundamental laws of physics, then it is trivially obvious that no physical explanation of these laws can be provided; they are the premises of all physical explanations. So while the last sentence of this paragraph is certainly true, I don't see why atheists should find this "alarming" at all. Maybe these laws are not just physically but ontologically fundamental; in other words, they are the ultimate foundation of everything, and no explanation at all can be given of them. Or maybe these laws are explained by something utterly beyond our physical universe, but then there is no reason at all to suppose this "something beyond" to be spiritual in nature or to resemble the usual conception of God.

Still another possibility, which seems to me quite plausible but is very little discussed, is that there is no ultimate level in physical explanation. Perhaps for each physical law there are other more fundamental, general and abstract principles that explain it, and for these yet other, and so on without end. This is a bit dizzying and difficult to imagine, but there seems to be no logical contradiction in the idea.

11 Comments:

  • O sea... ¿leyes físicas ad infinitum, con principios cada vez más abstractos sin terminar nunca? No sé si no lo creo, si no quiero creerlo, o si no quiero ponerme a pensar si quiero creerlo.

    By Blogger Merrick, at 11:52 PM, February 03, 2006  

  • Si, es MUY difícil imaginarse esa posibilidad, y exactamente qué implica y como podría ser así. Pero al menos en principio no parece ser una idea contradictoria, y me llama la atencion que sea muy poco tenida en cuenta; la mayoria de los físicos dan por seguro que hay leyes fundamentales, y en metafísica se supone en general que hay un conjunto ultimo de principios que explican todo lo demas (ya sean teístas o ateos).

    La cuestion es que si hay principios ultimos, entonces es incostestable la pregunta de por que son asi y no de otra manera (la vieja pregunta de "y quien creo a Dios?"). Con esta hipotesis que estoy sugiriendo no habria preguntas incontestables: cada pregunta podria recibir una respuesta en un nivel superior.

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 4:00 PM, February 05, 2006  

  • Más respeto con el vegetarian.

    By Anonymous Hernán, at 9:09 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • lo qué?

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 9:12 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • ah... vos sos hernan? y por que? o no lo sos?

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 9:13 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • El restaurant vegetariano (por llamarlo de alguna manera) era realmente pésimo. Aunque, Ale, tenés que admitir que la comida era de muy rápida digestión.

    By Anonymous Diego, at 9:15 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • ¿Por qué soy Hernán o por qué exijo respeto por el vegetarian?

    By Anonymous Hernán, at 9:28 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • Hubo un error, mi comentario era una respuesta al de Diego (amigo mio que estaba en el vegetariano) y por algun motivo ahora aparece antes. Como el comentario de Diego aparecio inmediatamente despues del mi "lo que?", pense que el habia sido Hernan y me estaba contestando.

    Mil disculpas, Hernan (y ya que estamos, sos HGG o algun otro Hernan que desconozco?)

    Ya que estamos, disculpas tambien a todos los lectores de habla castellana por la ausencia en mi prosa de acentos, signos de interrogacion abriendo, y otras marcas caracteristicas de nuestra lengua. Se que podria ponerlas, pero si no las tengo en el teclado me da paja.

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 9:32 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • PD: como Diego puede testificar, ese restaurant vegetariano se merece realmente todo desrespeto.

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 9:35 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • Paso a explicar:
    Hernán es un amigo mío. Compañero de trabajo. Es justamente la persona que me recomendó el restaurant vegetariano al que asistimos aquella noche luego del juego de paddle. Toda la ira y la furia es para él.

    By Anonymous Diego, at 2:33 AM, February 08, 2006  

  • Y dos días después de cenar en ese restaurante me agarró una fiebre que me duró cuatro días y una varicela que me duró más de dos semanas.

    By Anonymous El hombre que volvió de la fiebre, at 10:41 PM, February 08, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


 
/body>