Thomas Nagel Outline

Thomas Nagel Outline - Regan Pearson Philosophy 2300-001...

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Regan Pearson Philosophy 2300-001 Thomas Nagel once wrote that, “In ordinary life a situation is absurd when it includes a conspicuous discrepancy between pretension and reality.” The term absurd, according to Nagel, could then be given to the human life, because the concept is just as easily applicable. We, as people, hold ourselves higher than any other being on Earth. We anoint ourselves as “the chosen species” without so much of an afterthought. However unfortunate or inconvenient for some, as the old saying goes, “you can’t hide from the truth.” And the truth is, on the cosmic scale, we are hardly even noticeable, a speck of dust in a seemingly infinite universe. We hold no real value, living in mere instances when compared to the cosmic standard of time. We live and we die, and the pattern continues until Earth ceases to exist. What makes all this absurd, according to Nagel, is that we have the ability to step back from our perspective, observing ourselves and our lives as if from afar. In this instance, we can see the emptiness our lives represent, that all our actions will, ultimately, amount to nothing. We see that all of our justifications, in the defense of purpose and meaning, will eventually betray us. Then, a curious thing happens. We return right back to the pointless, routine-filled lives we were just questioning. Consider this comparison; a famous scientist spends his life’s work developing a cure for cancer. After many years of research, still far away from a result, a rival scientist develops the same cure. Despite this, our scientist decides to conclude his life finishing his research. This particular behavior described is the definition of absurd and is essentially, according to Nagel, what we do everyday throughout our lives. There is no meaning, no reason we should be doing what we are. Any reason that one could try and give for meaning, would eventually have nothing to support it, only pure speculation. All chains of justification can be defeated. In sum, in Nagel’s view, there is no meaning in life. Most people, at some point, begin their experience with philosophy trying to answer the
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This note was uploaded on 03/05/2010 for the course PHIL 2300 taught by Professor Scala during the Spring '08 term at Texas Tech.

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Thomas Nagel Outline - Regan Pearson Philosophy 2300-001...

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