Topics: Philosophy of mind, Consciousness, Mind Pages: 4 (1547 words) Published: May 31, 2013
Nagel is probably most widely known within the field of philosophy of mind as an advocate of the idea that consciousness and subjective experience cannot be reduced to brain activity. In this essay, I will critically evaluate Thomas Nagel’s What is it Like to be a Bat? His paper isn't really about the sensory world of bats; it's more of a critique of reductionist theories of the mind. Nagel argues that consciousness has a subjective aspect, and that understanding other mental states is difficult or impossible for those not able to experience those mental states. I will explain this by introducing the content and by explaining the importance of consciousness as well as the subjective character of experience. Nagel states that reductionists rarely address consciousness. Because there is no really persuading reduction available, implausible accounts of the mental have been developed to help explain familiar kind of reductions. This has led to reductionists ignoring consciousness. But according to Nagel the mind-body problem is boring without consciousness. Nagel now turns to conscious experience. He finds that some animals and aliens have it – and that there is something it is like to be that organism. He calls this “the subjective character of experience” (Searle would call it the “first-person-ontology” of consciousness) and claims reductionists, functional states, intentional states or behavior analysis has not yet captured it. A physical analysis of the mind must include consciousness, or some idea of it at least, from the start on to work out. He then compares objective and subjective experience. The problem he finds for reducing the latter is that it is connected with a single point of view. To make things less peculiar, Nagel tries this on the example of bats (who are relatively close related to us, but somewhat different nonetheless). Because their perception is so different from ours, Nagel sees every reason to claim that we cannot imagine what it is like...
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