Mortal Questions

EPUB EBook by Thomas Nagel

EBook Description

First time to my knowledge I've seen a philosopher argue that death is really bad and we should be scared of it. Mortal Questions EPUB EBook And it's a good point about the nature of goodness not being restricted to non- EPUBrelational properties ascribable to a human at different times. Still, surprising that Nagel would fail to look into the huge variety of other reasons that philosophers have embraced the idea of death.

Which points to a crucial element of Nagel's style. He is arguing with the language of the people, using the people's definitions of the words at stake. It has a certain charm, a feeling of someone sincerely engaged in questioning their way of life, at first it almost feels Socratic. But then one remembers that Socrates (of early Plato particularly) radically questioned the people's definitions and made them think about the definitions they'd been using. Nagel doesn't fuss over words. Is this appropriate?

Let's look at the second essay, on the Absurd. I was excited to read it, as it draws on Camus' Sisyphus essay, which was one of the first works of "real" (i.e. not Christopher Pike's) philosophy I ever read. And I was really getting pleased, when I read Nagel's argument that we learn our standards of meaning within life, therefore we cannot use the same standards when we step outside of life, in order to look at the big picture. I agree entirely. Life cannot as a whole be meaningless, because meaning is only something generated from within life, and no longer makes sense as a tool with which to judge life as a whole. We pull ourselves out of the individual chain of justifications when we look at the big picture, and may no longer ask for another link on that chain. Sadly, I got the same slap in the face from the ending that I'd gotten before with Camus. We should live our lives with IRONY? Wha? Why? He's just demonstrated that we may not look at our overall struggles as meaningless. So what use do we have for irony? It's just as unjustified within the text as Camus' call to defiance.

This lesson about when you can use what words (such as in the second essay, "justification" and "meaning") is throughout the book not taken seriously enough. There is a problem with using work-a-day definitions for philosophic thought, words understood according to their use in certain normal situations are plucked out of their context and made in this innocent form to take part in exotic dances. Naturally, this method leads to mixed up conclusions - unexpected, yet no more rigourous for all that. We're struck by an embarassingly clear example in the essay on Sexual Perversion, written in 1969. The conclusions do not hold and are ridiculously dated. Philosophic truths should exercise a permanent claim on our attention, and not become silly artifacts after a mere forty years. Yet, this is only possible when we examine the concepts we're using. If you take them out of the mouths of those conversing under entirely other circumstances, you end up with stiff nonsense. Like this book? Read online this: Words from a Life, Mere Mortal.

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