Chapter

Why We Can't Understand Thought from the Outside

Thomas Nagel

in The Last Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195149838
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872206 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195149831.003.0002
Why We Can't Understand Thought from the Outside

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In Nagel's view, any challenge to reason involves reason and implicitly authorizes the use of reason. Separating the idea of reason from the idea that its results must carry absolute certainty, Nagel stresses the importance of the aspiration of reason for universality. His defense of the authority of reason resembles Descartes’ cogito, which identifies the limits of self‐criticism from an external viewpoint. Rejecting Richard Rorty's pragmatism as inconsistent with the consensus upon which Rorty attempts to “ground” objectivity, Nagel states that epistemological skepticism is only possible with an implicit reliance on the capacity for rational thought.

Keywords: certainty; Descartes; epistemological skepticism; external viewpoint; objectivity; pragmatism; rational thought; Richard Rorty; self‐criticism; universality

Chapter.  7615 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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