Thomas Nagel quotes

  • If sub specie aeternitatis there is no reason to believe that anything matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our absurd lives with irony instead of heroism or despair.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Believe #Despair #Matter

  • I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, I hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #God #Religious #Believe

  • Materialism is incomplete even as a theory of the physical world, since the physical world includes conscious organisms among its most striking occupants.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #World #Materialism #Conscious

  • What we take ourselves to be doing when we think about what is the case or how we should act is something that cannot be reconciled with a reductive naturalism, for reasons distinct from those that entail the irreducibility of consciousness. It is not merely the subjectivity of thought but its capacity to transcend subjectivity and to discover what is objectively the case that presents a problem....Thought and reasoning are correct or incorrect in virtue of something independent of the thinker's beliefs, and even independent of the community of thinkers to which he belongs. (p. 71)
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Independent #Thinking #Community

  • Absurdity is one of the most human things about us: a manifestation of our most advanced and interesting characteristics.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Interesting #Characteristics #Manifestation

  • Perhaps the belief in God is the belief that the universe is intelligible, but not to us.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Belief #Belief In God #Universe

  • Life may be not only meaningless but absurd.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #May #Absurd #Meaningless

  • Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Waking #Becoming #Wake Up

  • Humans are addicted to the hope for a final reckoning, but intellectual humility requires that we resist the temptation to assume that tools of the kind we now have are in principle sufficient to understand the universe as a whole.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Humility #Temptation #Intellectual

  • Everyone is entitled to commit murder in the imagination once in a while, not to mention lesser infractions.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Imagination #Murder #Commit

  • There is a tendency to seek an objective account of everything before admitting its reality.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Reality #Admitting #Tendencies

  • every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Views #Subjectivity #Consciousness

  • fundamentally an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism--something it is like for the organism.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Ifs And #Consciousness #Conscious

  • Any reductionist program has to be based on an analysis of what is to be reduced. If the analysis leaves something out, the problem will be falsely posed.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Analysis #Problem #Consciousness

  • It seems to me that, as it is usually presented, the current orthodoxy about the cosmic order is the product of governing assumptions that are unsupported, and that it flies in the face of common sense.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Order #Common Sense #Orthodoxy

  • It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection. We are supposed to abandon this naïve response, not in favor of a fully worked out physical/chemical explanation but in favor of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by some examples. What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a credible argument that the story has a nonnegligible probability of being true.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Together #Example #Alternatives

  • It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope there is no God. I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Believe #Want #There Is No God

  • What is it like to be a bat? What is it like for a bat to be a bat?
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Funny #Animal #Bats

  • A person may be greedy, envious, cowardly, cold, ungenerous, unkind, vain, or conceited, but behave perfectly by a monumental act of the will.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Conceited #Psychology #May

  • Everything, living or not, is constituted from elements having a nature that is both physical and nonphysical--that is, capable of combining into mental wholes. So this reductive account can also be described as a form of panpsychism: all the elements of the physical world are also mental....
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #World #Elements #Form

  • The universe has become not only conscious and aware of itself but capable in some respects of choosing its path into the future--though all three, the consciousness, the knowledge, and the choice, are dispersed over a vast crowd of beings, acting both individually and collectively.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Choices #Acting #Three

  • The great cognitive shift is an expansion of consciousness from the perspectival form contained in the lives of particular creatures to an objective, world-encompassing form that exists both individually and intersubjectively. It was originally a biological evolutionary process, and in our species it has become a collective cultural process as well. Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Wake Up #World #Waking

  • The point is... to live one's life in the full complexity of what one is, which is something much darker, more contradictory, more of a maelstrom of impulses and passions, of cruelty, ecstacy, and madness, than is apparent to the civilized being who glides on the surface and fits smoothly into the world.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Passion #World #Maelstrom

  • Without consciousness the mind-body problem would be much less interesting. With consciousness it seems hopeless.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Interesting #Mind #Would Be

  • I conceive ethics as a branch of psychology.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Psychology #Branches #Action

  • equally real at all stages of his life; specifically, the fact that a particular stage is present cannot be regarded as conferring on it any special status.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Real #Psychology #Special

  • To look for a single general theory of how to decide the right thing to do is like looking for a single theory of how to decide what to believe.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Believe #Psychology #Looks

  • A theory of motivation is defective if it renders intelligible behaviour which is not intelligible.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Motivation #Psychology #Behaviour

  • Eventually, I believe, current attempts to understand the mind by analogy with man-made computers that can perform superbly some of the same external tasks as conscious beings will be recognized as a gigantic waste of time.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Believe #Men #Mind

  • Altruism itself depends on a recognition of the reality of other persons, and on the equivalent capacity to regard oneself as merely one individual among many.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Reality #Empathy #Recognition

  • The problem is one of opposition between subjective and objective points of view. There is a tendency to seek an objective account of everything before admitting its reality. But often what appears to a more subjective point of view cannot be accounted for in this way. So either the objective conception of the world is incomplete, or the subjective involves illusions that should be rejected.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Reality #Views #World

  • Common sense doesn't have the last word in ethics or anywhere else, but it has, as J. L. Austin said about ordinary language, the first word: it should be examined before it is discarded.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Common Sense #Psychology #Ordinary

  • The external view [of agency] forces itself on us at the same time that we resist it. One way this occurs is through the gradual erosion of what we do by the subtraction of what happens.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Agency #Erosion #Views

  • The inclusion of consequences in the conception of what we have done is an acknowledgement that we are parts of the world, but the paradoxical character of moral luck which emerges from this acknowledgement shows that we are unable to operate with such a view, for it leaves us with no one to be.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Character #Views #Psychology

  • Once we see an aspect of what we or someone else does as something that happens, we lose our grip on the idea that it has been done and that we can judge the doer and not just the happening.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Ideas #Judging #Psychology

  • The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Historical #Details #Intricacy

  • If life is not real, life is not earnest, and the grave is its goal, perhaps it's ridiculous t otake ourselves so seriously.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Real #Goal #Ridiculous

  • Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Mind #Body #Problem

  • If I thought that everything I did was determined by my circumstancse and my psychological condition, I woudl feel trapped.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Determined #Psychological #Feels

  • I'm not sure I understand how responsibility for our choices makes sense if they are not determined.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Responsibility #Choices #Determined

  • Reason is universal because no attempted challenge to its results can avoid appealing to reason in the end-by claiming, for example, that what was presented as an argument is really a rationalization. This can undermine our confidence in the original method or practice only by giving us reasons to believe something else, so that finally we have to think about the arguments to make up our minds.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Believe #Philosophical #Thinking

  • I should not really object to dying were it not followed by death.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Dying #Should

  • It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Together #Natural #Results

  • Philosophy is the childhood of the intellect, and a culture that tries to skip it will never grow up.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Growing Up #Philosophy #Childhood

  • If you want the truth rather than merely something to say, you will have a good deal less to say.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Want #Deals

  • Leading a human life is a full-time occupation, to which everyone devotes decades of intense concern.
    -- Thomas Nagel

    #Occupation #Life Is #Intense