Thomas Nagel - How Is It Like to Be a Bat?

Topics: Philosophy of mind, Consciousness, Mind Pages: 3 (880 words) Published: August 16, 2008
Thomas Nagel (1981) – How is it like to be a bat?
Why does "consciousness" make the mind-body problem really intractable according to Thomas Nagel?
In his text “What is it like to be a bat?” of 1974 Thomas Nagel claims that consciousness is the barrier that makes the mind-body problem unique and so hard. He states that consciousness is rarely addressed by reductionists. 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 it has not yet been captured by reductionists, functional states, intentional states or behavior analysis. 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 – think of sonar). Because their perception is so different from ours, Nagel sees every reason to claim that we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat. Nagel not only tries to imagine what it would be like for him to be a bat . That doesn't hit the point. He wants to know what it is like for the bat itself. Also transforming into a bat, gradually even, would not help for he wants to know it in his present condition.

This is where Nagel points out that we can only make schematic ascriptions that lack the...
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