Thomas Nagel

in The Last Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195149838
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872206 | DOI:

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To refute subjectivism about science, we must begin, Nagel says, with the idea that there is some way the world is and aim to show that even the subjectivist cannot rise above this idea. Nagel rejects Kant's claim that reason cannot tell us anything about how the world is in itself because any use of reason is limited by how the world seems to us. According to Nagel, there is something suspicious in the view that we have the bare idea of our placement in a mind‐independent world but not the logical possibility of anything more. Kantian transcendental idealism is just one hypothesis and must compete with the more mundane possibility that the world is more or less as it appears. Since science continues to offer good reasons to believe things, not just about the phenomenal world but also about the world as it is in itself, in an equal contest, the subjectivist loses.

Keywords: Kant; mind‐independent world; phenomenal world; reason; science; subjectivism; transcendental idealism

Chapter.  7803 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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