A Review of Thomas Nagel’s
June 30, 2012
Professor S. Gallegos
In his paper, The Absurd, Thomas Nagel attempts to provide some insight regarding the problem of the meaning of life. He makes clear, his conception of this problem, which concerns the natural expression of the sense that life is Absurd, and then offers a persuasive account of what such absurdity might consist in. I believe that Nagel’s proposal provides important insight into the problem of absurdity, and thus a satisfactory resolution to the problem must be able to prove that the aspect in which people view their lives as absurd, and therefore meaningless, is fallacious. I will argue that in his attempt to defend his proposal, Nagel gives good grounds as to the reason of why life is absurd, however, I do not believe that he satisfactorily defends his claim that there are good grounds for in which, it exists. I intend to analyze Nagel’s arguments through his considerations of the epistemological problem of how a person could warrant their life as meaningful, and the metaphysical assertion that a person’s life is meaningful. I shall also purport my own opinions in conclusion of my analysis. In examining his considerations, I will come to the conclusion that the mere truth of Nagel’s epistemological thesis lies in the conclusion that people lack ‘subjective guarantees’ that their lives are not absurd, and therefore the fear or doubt in regarding whether their lives are meaningful is unavoidable.
Is Nagel’s Defense of his Proposal Satisfactory?
A Review of Thomas Nagel’s ‘The Absurd’
Nagel’s paper opens by pointing out that people naturally provide an expression for the sense that life is absurd. He notes that the reasons that are ordinarily given for thinking that life is absurd are inadequate and then cites four examples. The first is that our existence will not matter a long time from now. He argues that if it is true that nothing that we do now will matter in a million years then, “by the same token, nothing that will be the case in a million years matters now.” In particular, he goes on, “it does not matter now that in a million years nothing we do now will matter.”
It is easy for me to understand why many people make a connection between time and absurdity. It is many times the case that when people are under pressure due to a time constraint or deadline of some sort, they may feel stressed out. The stress can easily stem into doubt that they will not complete their goal in time and a sense of fear or anxiety may therefore arise from the situation. As I will later strengthen this point in my conclusion, it is understandable to see why people can make the mistake of relating this stressful doubt, or fear and anxiety to the feeling of absurdity, just based on their recognition of this feeling, which in many ways, is similar to the feeling they get from a sense that something is absurd. The basis for the second mistaken view that he considers is that we are very small in comparison to the universe as a whole. Nagel notes that even if we were very large when compared to the universe as a whole, infinitely large perhaps, it wouldn’t follow from this fact alone that our lives are any less absurd than they are now. One possible reason for this mistaken association between size and absurdity may stem from a commonly discussed topic based on the question “Does size matter?” Regardless of its irrelevancy to the feeling of absurdity, I believe that this confusion of mistaken association is based on a perception that mistakenly related the topic to a past experience in which size was involved and related to a feeling that was similar to the feeling of absurdity. A situation or prior memory of discussion, in which size and a perception of the absurd was involved. Nagel’s objection to the third ground for the belief that our lives are absurd because we are mortal is similar to what he...
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