Being all deep and stuff: Nagel’s Science

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

In Chapter 5, Nagel affirms the reality of an objective viewpoint by analyzing the situation from a more scientific perspective. Ultimately, objectivity and subjectivity are two competing hypotheses, and one must be adequately demonstrated to be the reality through reasoned consideration. The empirical approach that Nagel asserts therefore requires the decision maker to proceed with caution because he/she can be fallible. Keeping this in mind, someone trying to grasp reality must use some nonlocal methods for understanding reality. Radical skepticism, strangely enough, relies on objective realities because a radical skeptic must believe in certain truths in order to assert that one claim cannot be chosen over another. Nagel agrees with something that Descartes established in the Cogito, that certain realities simply cannot be questioned. However, even after such a careful analysis both perspectives are incomplete in some ways; therefore, they must clash directly with each other since no neutral comparison point exists. In response, Nagel develops his point further and claims that our worldview is the expression of our perspective and the driving force behind empirical reasoning is the search for order. Arguably Nagel’s criteria could be considered subjective, but he argues that dislikes that are similar to other dislikes, which proves an objective reality. This argument by Nagel seems similar to Socrate’s argument about equalness. These arguments are abstract and confusing, but they argue convincingly in favor of objectivism. Kant’s transcendental idealism argument would take issue with Nagel by questioning the correctness of our observations. Nagel’s argument that someone is unable to conceive of something like Kant’s argument suggests, seems inadequate because something could be even though people are entirely incapable of thinking of it. This is the basis for the God argument (which St. Thomas Aquinas uses); however, such a claim kills the discussion. Therefore, only that which can be empirically known (as Aristotle would argue) seems plausible.

Works Cited

Nagel, Thomas. The Last Word. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

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