A critical glance at Thomas Nagel’s work, helps us to see sentience and intuition as necessary ingredients for human synergy. Mr. Thomas Nagel is a philosopher and philosophical arguments don’t sit well with scientific pundits who rely solely on reducing everything to the physical principles of matter
Simply put, Nagel says that mind and matter are both fully real and distinct entities and the scientific approach has always relied solely on matter and it’s properties for explaining origins and evolution. This is not a new argument and there have been many philosophical attempts at tying mind to matter, which Nagel claims fall short for lack of an alternative intellectual revolution as radical as Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Nagel’s alternative to materialism is “natural teleology” – an atheistic offshoot of the often associated concept of teleology – a God-like mind or agent that wills things as a means to an end. He suggests that, instead of an agent’s intent, it’s just the way the world is – a set of undiscovered laws that direct the formation of complex organisms and consciousness.
My approach is understanding sentience and intuition as necessary properties of an advanced creature to understand the most important aspects of existence. Although sentience and intuition appear to be the divisive factors towards human synergy at the present time, they are the factors that will set us apart from the lesser creatures who exhibit synergy without thought. The agent (God) in my assessment is always trying to reveal itself. It consistently manipulates matter and energy to create vehicles of life for the sole purpose of becoming completely and perfectly expressed in the physical realm. Only through conscious choice to discover can we become the perfect and synergistic reflection of God in physical form as highly evolved Supreme Beings.
It sounds like Nagel is floundering here and perhaps his atheism is really an attack on the religiously imbued “image” of God and an attempt to assuage those in the scientific arena, who deny God in their strict materialistic view of evolution, which is similar to H. Allen Orr’s review in The New York Review of Books.
Nevertheless, scientific pundits always attack intuitive conclusions because the nature of science is to form a conclusion on the basis of evidence derived after an intuitive assumption or hypothesis. Their quick reproach of intuition is contradictory to the scientific process because a theory is nothing more than intuitive assumptions to explain the evidence obtained through observation and experimentation. It’s an incessant battle when asked to provide tangible evidence for the intangible – but observable – reality of consciousness and it’s role in the physical reality we deem as separate and definable. I discussed this in a recent post (Metaphysics of Truth).
In Orr’s review we find a very presumptive statement used to oppose Nagel’s reliance on the importance of sentience:
“There are millions of species of fungi and bacteria and nearly 300,000 species of flowering plants. None of these groups is sentient and each is spectacularly successful. Indeed mindless species outnumber we sentient ones by any sensible measure. More fundamentally, each of these species is every bit as much the end product of evolution as we are. The point is that, if nature has goals, it certainly seems to have many and consciousness would appear to be fairly far down on the list.”
From my perspective, sentience and intuition are crucial for the ultimate expression of Nature (God) and therefore the most complex, which would require the most time in the creation process. The lesser beings are spectacular because they lack sentience but reflect the perfection of Nature without the interference of thought and individual will. God has reached the maximum potential of collective expression in those limited vehicles. Over time, which is only a delusional construct of human beings, we sentient beings have become the advanced vehicle with the potential to completely and perfectly reflect the Essence (Nature or God).
Sentience, then, may appear to run counter to Nature, but it can easily be demonstrated as the tool to our eventual collective and total understanding, which none of the lesser creatures can ever possess. Only sentient beings with a prioritized collective WILL can achieve – human synergy – an unsurpassed level of wonder. From this perspective we discover a remarkable solution to the baffling megalithic mysteries while adding a good degree of credence to the Tower of Babel Legend.
While these statements are conclusions based on intuition, they are founded upon an attempt to answer more questions than either side of the old argument can answer alone. If we can tie more unknowns together in a logical argument, which can reveal the shortcomings of the current arguments, then we are closer to the truth because we provide a more complete set of assumptions to explain the evidence. This is what Philosophy is supposed to do.
The often discarded conclusions of intuition are necessary in explaining the advancement of our species. Do we need to provide evidence for the link to unanswered questions through intuition?
Curiosity has always been the catalyst to the procurement of knowledge, but our intuition or wisdom is just as necessary in the determination of truth. The definition of wisdom by Webster is “…having the power to judge rightly and follow the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, understanding and good judgment; insightful understanding of what is true, right or enduring.” The definition implies a sixth sense, and it truly is. By invoking our curiosity, in an attempt to answer questions aroused by suspicion, we empower our wisdom to offer solutions.
Let’s suppose we want to be on time for an eight o’clock appointment that will forever change our lives. We will calculate our departure time in a basic scientific way. Let’s also suppose that, for some reason, the clock in our house was one hour slow and we weren’t aware of it. We would fail to achieve our objective because we failed to see the truth. We certainly believed that we knew, but we were wrong and therefore had to suffer the consequences.
Let’s also suppose that, under the same circumstances, we didn’t believe the clock was correct because we had a “hunch” that something wasn’t right. We willingly accepted the insight and chose to reject the presumed truth. We looked for clues to verify our hunch and discovered the truth in time. Our intuition freed us from the mistake of our ignorance.
Where did our gut feeling originate? When we use our intuition to answer this question, we get to the core of our existence and proof that an underlying agent continues in its attempt to be consciously and perfectly expressed.