25th out of 76 books — 4 voters
The Last Word
by Thomas Nagel
If there is such a thing as reason, it has to be universal. Reason must reflect objective principles whose validity is independent of our point of view - principles that anyone with enough intelligence ought to be able to recognize as correct. But this universality of reason is what relativists and subjectivists deny in ever-increasing numbers. And such subjectivism is not...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published 1996)
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Oct 26, 2009 Greg rated it 4 of 5 stars · review of another edition
This is a short but brain-hurting little book on reason, and the fallacies of non-rational / subjective attempts at building epistemologies and ethical systems. I won’t bore anyone with the details, and this isn’t a spoiler because he throws out his view right at the start of the book, but Nagel’s basic idea is that any attempt to overthrow rationality, say for example for a cultural relativism for how come to think the way we think, is doomed because to engage in the exercise we are still in th...more
The good thing about Thomas Nagel is that he puts himself out there. Frankly, I think his "defense of reason" walks and talks like Blackburn--all the better for Blackburn, I say! Still an engaging read. Pair it with Blackburn's Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning and decide for yourself.
Overall, this was a rather well done refutation of most vulgar relativistic conceptions of knowledge and justification. His arguments in favor of ethical realism seem to be rather well constructed, even if I completely disagree. In short, this is definitely worth reading if you want a refutation of the more naive forms of relativism floating around the intellectual zeitgeist.
Thomas Nagel is an American philosopher, currently University Professor and Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, where he has taught since 1980. His main areas of philosophical interest are philosophy of mind, political philosophy and ethics. He is well-known for his critique of reductionist accounts of the mind in his essay "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?" (1974), and for his con...moreMore about Thomas Nagel...