The Last Word / Edition 1by Thomas Nagel
Pub. Date: 01/30/1997
Publisher: Oxford University Press
In the Last Word, Thomas Nagel, one of the most influential philosophers writing in English, presents a sustained defense of reason against the attacks of subjectivism, delivering systematic rebuttals of relativistic claims with respect to language, logic, science, and ethics.
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Nagel argues that the claims of reason have a certain kind of ultimacy or absolute status. The main line of argument he advances is rather popular: attempts to undermine reason are self-defeating. There is also an ad hominem to the effect that most of those who are attracted to some sort of skepticism, relativism, holism, postmodernism, or anti-rationalism are mush minded muddle headed good for nothings. He rightfully deplores the epidemic of skepticism in ¿the weaker regions of culture¿ as ¿crude¿ and ¿vulgar,¿ and is irritated by ¿a growth in the already extreme intellectual laziness in contemporary culture and the collapse of serious argument throughout the lower reaches of the humanities and social sciences.¿ But the extensive span of the denunciation, which targets all those who call for any sort of restriction on the absolute claims of reason and science, seems odd coming from the author of _The View from Nowhere_. I read that book as an attack on the idea that either the objective or the subjective stance could claim any absolute status. Kant is especially targeted, although no notice is taken of contemporary Kant scholarship. In general, there is a great deal of denunciation in this book without attention to the detail of the writings of those the author opposes.