Thomas Nagel's book is another strike against the neo-Darwinian materialism so prominent among the scientific community. His thesis that materialism can not explain consciousness and cognition are his best argued points and follows in the same kind of vein as Alvin Plantinga: If our cognitive abilities are the result of materialist neo-Darwinian evolution then there is no reason why they should be accurate, let alone allow for abstract thinking that is far removed from our survival. How could these things have come to be if neo-Darwinian materialism is quite unable to answer these question?!
Nagel has an answer: The universe's matter has a type of "proto-mind" (he's not specific as to what this entails) which provides in with a teleological path leading towards conscious and even cognitive beings.
Unfortunately, when proposing these fixes, the book slips into incoherence. One of the big difficulties is that he's set against any type of dualism. This is (one reason) why he rejects theism and why the material universe has to come already pre-hardwired for telos and mind. This means that something has to have a goal without intention (Nagel himself makes it clear that there can be no intention. What about the mind in matter? My guess: it's in such a primitive state that it's too simple for goals) - and even he expresses doubts about the possibility. Those doubts however are quickly pushed aside, because intention (in this case) naturally lead to theism. This problem is bigger than he thinks, is an "intention-less" goal even coherent? I seriously doubt it.
He then tries to argue for a realist view of values in order to show the incoherence of the materialist worldview. I found this section to be half baked and confused. He rightly writes off the subjective theory of values but his realist theory doesn't add up. After all, without god whose values is he talking about? I'm afraid the cold and vacuous expanse of the cosmos holds no such value - he should probably look else where.