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Ideas of Thomas Nagel, by Text

[American, b.1937, Born in Yugoslavia. Studied with Rawls. Professor at New York University.]

1971 The Absurd
§1 p.12 If a small brief life is absurd, then so is a long and large one
§3 p.16 If your life is to be meaningful as part of some large thing, the large thing must be meaningful
§3 p.16 Justifications come to an end when we want them to
1971 Brain Bisection and Unity of Consciousness
p.84 Brain bisection suggests unity of mind isn't all-or-nothing [Lockwood]
p.164 p.164 We may be unable to abandon personal identity, even when split-brains have undermined it
1974 What is it like to be a bat?
p.80 Physicalism should explain how subjective experience is possible, but not 'what it is like' [Kirk,R]
p.212 Nagel's title creates an impenetrable mystery, by ignoring a bat's ways that may not be "like" anything [Dennett]
p.166 p.166 An organism is conscious if and only if there is something it is like to be that organism
p.174 p.174 We can't be objective about experience
p.179 p.179 Can we describe our experiences to zombies?
1976 Moral Luck
p.27 p.27 We can't control our own beliefs
p.28 p.28 Moral luck can arise in character, preconditions, actual circumstances, and outcome
1977 Equality
§1 p.106 Equality nowadays is seen as political, social, legal and economic
§2 p.108 Equality can either be defended as good for society, or as good for individual rights
§2 p.109 Equality was once opposed to aristocracy, but now it opposes public utility and individual rights
§5 p.116 A morality of rights is very minimal, leaving a lot of human life without restrictions or duties
§6 p.117 In judging disputes, should we use one standard, or those of each individual?
§6 p.118 An egalitarian system must give priority to those with the worst prospects in life
§8 p.123 The ideal of acceptability to each individual underlies the appeal to equality
§9 p.126 The general form of moral reasoning is putting yourself in other people's shoes
1977 The Fragmentation of Value
p.135 p.135 There is no one theory of how to act (or what to believe)
1979 Panpsychism
p.186 p.186 Given the nature of heat and of water, it is literally impossible for water not to boil at the right heat
p.186 p.186 Emergent properties appear at high levels of complexity, but aren't explainable by the lower levels
1979 Subjective and Objective
p.198 p.198 The most difficult problem of free will is saying what the problem is
p.200 p.200 If you assert that we have an ego, you can still ask if that future ego will be me
p.204 p.204 As far as possible we should become instruments to realise what is best from an eternal point of view
p.206 p.206 Inner v outer brings astonishment that we are a particular person
p.207 p.207 Sense-data are a false objectification of what is essentially subjective
1986 The View from Nowhere
Intro p.4 There is more insight in fundamental perplexity about problems than in their supposed solutions
Intro p.11 It seems mad, but the aim of philosophy is to climb outside of our own minds
Intro p.12 Philosophy is the childhood of the intellect, and a culture can't skip it
II p.14 We achieve objectivity by dropping secondary qualities, to focus on structural primary qualities
III.2 p.35 Personal identity cannot be fully known a priori
III.3 p.37 The question of whether a future experience will be mine presupposes personal identity
III.4 p.45 I can't even conceive of my brain being split in two
Intro p.5 Views are objective if they don't rely on a person's character, social position or species
p.14 p.3 Things cause perceptions, properties have other effects, hence we reach a 'view from nowhere' [Reiss/Sprenger]
V.1 p.69 Epistemology is centrally about what we should believe, not the definition of knowledge
V.1 p.71 Realism invites scepticism because it claims to be objective
V.3 p.75 Modern science depends on the distinction between primary and secondary qualities
V.5 p.84 Observed regularities are only predictable if we assume hidden necessity
V.6 p.88 Scepticism is based on ideas which scepticism makes impossible
VIII.1 p.138 If we can decide how to live after stepping outside of ourselves, we have the basis of a moral theory
VIII.1 p.139 We find new motives by discovering reasons for action different from our preexisting motives
VIII.2 p.144 Pain doesn't have a further property of badness; it gives a reason for its avoidance
VIII.2 p.147 Total objectivity can't see value, but it sees many people with values
VIII.3 p.150 If cockroaches can't think about their actions, they have no duties
X.4 p.200 Something may be 'rational' either because it is required or because it is acceptable
X.5 p.205 Utilitarianism is too demanding
XI.2 p.217 If our own life lacks meaning, devotion to others won't give it meaning
XI.2 p.222 We should see others' viewpoints, but not lose touch with our own values
XI.3 p.228 We don't worry about the time before we were born the way we worry about death
1987 What Does It All Mean?
Ch.5 p.46 The meaning of a word contains all its possible uses as well as its actual ones
1988 MacIntyre versus the Enlightenment
203 p.203 You would have to be very morally lazy to ignore criticisms of your own culture
1991 Equality and Partiality
Ch.10 p.100 Noninterference requires justification as much as interference does
Ch.2 p.10 In ethics we abstract from our identity, but not from our humanity
Ch.4 p.34 Game theory misses out the motivation arising from the impersonal standpoint
Ch.4 p.38 A legitimate system is one accepted as both impartial and reasonably partial
Ch.5 p.45 Morality must be motivating, and not because of pre-moral motives
Ch.5 p.48 I can only universalise a maxim if everyone else could also universalise it
Ch.9 p.89 Democracy is opposed to equality, if the poor are not a majority
1995 The Philosophical Culture
§6 p.6 Modern philosophy tends to be a theory-constructing extension of science, but there is also problem-solving
2000 The Psychophysical Nexus
§III p.445 Pure supervenience explains nothing, and is a sign of something fundamental we don't know