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The Last Word

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  14 reviews
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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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
Jun 12, 2011 added it
Shelves: philosophy
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. ...more
Error Theorist
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Alexi Parizeau
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was shocking how relevant this book turned out to be, at least for my own interests. Sorry this is going to be a useless review, because I'm utterly blinded by the profundity this has for my own work.

[First Reading: April 12-13 2015]
Rui Coelho
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a fun read. It was amusing to watch Nagel contradicting himself, question-begging and making a fool of himself in general in order to advocate for his unreasonable and outdated belief that reason and logic are the sole foudations for a valid discourse.
Kean Chan
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nagel defends the rationalist concept of reason and leads a polemic against subjectivist conventions, exposing them as inherent fallacies
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good headache! Am writing a paper on the Ethics chapter now; comparing some of his writing with Wittgenstein. I can´t believe how much their views have in common...
Aug 16, 2019 is currently reading it
Shelves: sam-harris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
If only we could stop with the nonsense that is relativism in the social sciences. For the most part, Nagel accurately describes just how nonsensical the entire movement is, which reduces the human being to nothing more than an arbitrary bundle of contingencies. I did not care for his writing style, even though the content is really well thought out. But his sentence structure is at times convoluted and at times just harder to understand than need be. He also pretty much supposed you have read a ...more
Mitch Flitcroft
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book about where epistemic justification comes to an end. It defends the universality of reason against subjectivist critiques by showing that the critiques are either self-defeating (as is the case in logic) or less plausible than their alternative (as is the case in science and ethics). There was a brief discussion of Godel’s incompleteness theorems, but I would have loved more. I’d recommend this book if you’re interested in philosophy, particularly epistemology.
Andrei Khrapavitski
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My weekend read was "Last Word," a book by philosopher Thomas Nagel. Considering how prevalent postmodern subjectivist, relativistic, pragmatist and/or naturalistic beliefs are these days, I highly recommend to pick this book and read Nagel's arguments carefully. Together with Derek Parfit, Peter Singer and a number of other authors, Nagel masterfully attacks these views. Maybe not a knockdown argument, considering we always view the world from within our own perspective, but it helps, if you wa ...more
Auntie Pam
Oct 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, babele
Un saggio davvero difficile per me che non amo la filosofia, e non c'entra nulla che l'ho letto in spagnolo. No, è proprio un rapporto di amore ed odio quello che ho con questi temi: o mi piacciono molto o li trovo banali e uan perdita di tempo. Questo per me è stata una perdita di tempo. Secondo il mio modesto parere Nagel è una persona egocentrica, uno che anche se vuol fare finta di dare il beneficio del dubbio, in cuor suo lui non ammetterà mai che può sbagliare. Perchè dire che ogni forma d ...more
1 of Sam's top 3 philosophy books for everyone to read.

I’m a big fan of Thomas Nagel’s earlier work… He is a very fine writer — a very clear writer — and just as a style of communication … he’s worth going to school on." Sam Harris
Champions rationality)

Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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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 ...more

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“To put it schematically, the claim "Everything is subjective" must be nonsense, for it would itself have to be either subjective or objective. But it can't be objective, since in that case it would be false if true. And it can't be subjective, because then it would not rule out any objective claim, including the claim that it is objectively false.” 6 likes
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