Synopses & Reviews
Human beings have the unique ability to view the world in a detached way: We can think about the world in terms that transcend our own experience or interest, and consider the world from a vantage point that is, in Nagel's words, "nowhere in particular." At the same time, each of us is a particular person in a particular place, each with his own "personal" view of the world, a view that we can recognize as just one aspect of the whole. How do we reconcile these two standpoints--intellectually, morally, and practically? To what extent are they irreconcilable and to what extent can they be integrated? Thomas Nagel's ambitious and lively book tackles this fundamental issue, arguing that our divided nature is the root of a whole range of philosophical problems, touching, as it does, every aspect of human life. He deals with its manifestations in such fields of philosophy as: the mind-body problem, personal identity, knowledge and skepticism, thought and reality, free will, ethics, the relation between moral and other values, the meaning of life, and death. Excessive objectification has been a malady of recent analytic philosophy, claims Nagel, it has led to implausible forms of reductionism in the philosophy of mind and elsewhere. The solution is not to inhibit the objectifying impulse, but to insist that it learn to live alongside the internal perspectives that cannot be either discarded or objectified. Reconciliation between the two standpoints, in the end, is not always possible.
"In writing this remarkable book, Thomas Nagel has succeeded in combining qualities that are rarely found together. Its aims are intellectually ambitious, and their achievement involves the unqualified repudiation of cherished views held by many of Nagel's more or less eminent contemporaries....He engages with precisely those philosophical doubts and anxieties that the reflective nonprofessional may be supposed to feel, and that are often inadequately dealt with by those whose professional business is philosophy."--P. F. Strawson, The New Republic
"Remarkable....All of his discussions are clear and insightful, but some reach a level of originality and illumination that opens genuinely new avenues of philosophical thought....A rare combination of profundity and clarity, along with simplicity of expression. It should be recommended to all those who are bored with or despair about philosophy."--Charles Taylor, Times Literary Supplement
"At a time when so much philosophy is devoted to technical discussion of esoteric questions, Nagel has written an original book, accessible to any educated reader, on some of the largest questions about our knowledge of the world and our place in it....Those who read it will be made to question many of their deepest beliefs, to consider new possibilities, and as a result to become more intellectually awake."--Jonathan Glover, The New York Review of Books
"An illuminating book by one of the most provocative philosophers writing today."--Religious Studies Review
"The clarity of [Nagel's] argument and the courage of his convictions are admirable. Highly recommended."--Key Reporter
Much philosophical debate has attempted to reconcile the human capacity to view the world both objectively and subjectively. Thomas Nagel's book tackles this fundamental issue, arguing that our divided nature is the root of a whole range of philosophical problems.
About the Author
is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law at New York University. His books include The Possibility of Altruism
, The View from Nowhere
, and What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy
. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 2008, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy and the Balzan Prize in Moral Philosophy.