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The View From Nowhere Revised ed. Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195056440
ISBN-10: 0195056442
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Editorial Reviews


"In writing this remarkable book, Thomas Nagel has succeeded in combining qualities that are rarely found together. Its aims are intellectually ambitious, and their achievement involves the unqualified repudiation of cherished views held by many of Nagel's more or less eminent contemporaries....He engages with precisely those philosophical doubts and anxieties that the reflective nonprofessional may be supposed to feel, and that are often inadequately dealt with by those whose professional business is philosophy."--P. F. Strawson, The New Republic

"Remarkable....All of his discussions are clear and insightful, but some reach a level of originality and illumination that opens genuinely new avenues of philosophical thought....A rare combination of profundity and clarity, along with simplicity of expression. It should be recommended to all those who are bored with or despair about philosophy."--Charles Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

"At a time when so much philosophy is devoted to technical discussion of esoteric questions, Nagel has written an original book, accessible to any educated reader, on some of the largest questions about our knowledge of the world and our place in it....Those who read it will be made to question many of their deepest beliefs, to consider new possibilities, and as a result to become more intellectually awake."--Jonathan Glover, The New York Review of Books

"An illuminating book by one of the most provocative philosophers writing today."--Religious Studies Review

"The clarity of [Nagel's] argument and the courage of his convictions are admirable. Highly recommended."--Key Reporter

About the Author

Thomas Nagel is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law at New York University. His books include The Possibility of Altruism, The View from Nowhere, and What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 2008, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy and the Balzan Prize in Moral Philosophy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (February 9, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195056442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195056440
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a major work in metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. It's essentially a summary of a career of thought concerning the central issues in philosophy, and it is built around Nagel's big idea: that the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity can help us to understand the nature and source of the central problems of philosophy. It's an interesting and fruitful idea--though perhaps not as interesting and fruitful as he thinks--and it leads Nagel to lots of interesting ideas about how to understand, appreciate, and maybe even solve the central problems of philosophy.
The main subject of the book is the relation between subjective and objective views of our minds, our selves, our thought, our actions, our moral views, etc. The subjective view is our limited point of view: it's the point of view we have when immersed in our own perspective on the world. We reach more objective points of view by subtracting the parochial elements from our perspective. In attempting to arrive at a more objective point of view, we step back from ourselves and place ourselves, along with our subjective points of view, in a broader conception of the world. This involves trying to see the world as it would appear to a being with a "view from nowhere."
But problems arise when we realize that it's difficult to integrate subjective and objective perspectives. There is a tension between subjectivity and objectivity, and this tension appears in all areas of philosophy. As a matter of fact, it's the source of most of the fundamental problems that plague philosophers. When we take up a more objective viewpoint, the central elements of our subjective viewpoints are inexplicable.
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Format: Paperback
I usually try to review only books that have not yet been reviewed, but I had to weigh in on this one.
As you can tell from the other reviews, this is a book that tends to polarize readers. The book has this effect, I believe, because it takes a stand on some crucial and interrelated issues in philosophy: the relationship between the mental and the physical, what it is to be the "same person," and objectivity in ethics.
The American pragmatist William James once said that there are two kinds of philosophers: the heard-headed and the soft-hearted. On the above issues, the hard-headed philosophers tend to say that what is real is what is objective. The soft-hearted tend to say that, while objectivity has its place, any adequate view of the world must acknowledge the reality of one's own subjective viewpoint, and one's own personal commitments and projects. Nagel is in the soft-hearted camp, which means that he will draw the ire of the heard-headed thinkers. (Professional philosophers will recognize that I am greatly oversimplifying -- but remember that most readers are not professional philosophers.)
Hard-headed philosophers will also object to Nagel's style. He can be somewhat obscure at points. However, Nagel suggests that it is sometimes worth being unclear but closer to the truth, rather than being very clear, yet far from it. That said, he is hardly as obscure as, say, Kant or Sartre (to pick two examples at random). And I think someone bright who is willing to think hard, and who wants to listen in as a major philosopher argues with his colleagues over major issues in contemporary philosophy, would get a lot out of this book. (Indeed, I think such a reader would get more out this book than she would out of a "dumbed down" popular book on philosophy.)
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Format: Paperback
One of the core issues of philosophy for Nagel is understanding the relationship between subjective and objective points of view. This book is a penetrating exposition of his thoughts on this subject. Following the trail of this theme through the mind-body problem, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and ethics, Nagel shows us the tremendous rewards of striving for the objective, while recognizing that the subjective always remains with us and cannot be rationalized away. It is a provocative read for someone who is already concerned with this problem, but not for newcomers to philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
Sorry for the double post here. (I'll try to get this one removed.)
Still, I can say a bit more about this book. This isn't a technical book, and I think it should be accessible to anyone interested in general philosophical issues. It's not an easy read--it's subtle and Nagel is sometimes a bit obscure--but it's not forbiddingly difficult and it doesn't presume that the reader is as knowledgeable about contemporary philosopohy as its author is. However, that's not to say that this is a book that fails to engage with the literature on these topics. It's clear that Nagel is familiar with the relevant contemporary work on these topics, and the book is accessible enough that it might server as a high-level introdution to the more technical literature in these areas. And it certainly provides you with a way to see the technical literature as concerned with fundamental human concerns.
Also, it's somewhat inspiring to see someone take on a grand project of this sort. Philosophy is becoming an increasingly specialized discipline, and it's nice to see someone trying to fit a lot of what is going on into a general picture of the origins and nature of genuine philosophical problems.
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