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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: February 2013

3 - Placing the mind in the physical world


The two areas in philosophy where Nagel has had the deepest impact are moral philosophy and the philosophy of mind. The latter is an area of philosophy where Nagel clearly believes that his distinctive theses can be most productive. It is our thinking about the mind that is, in his view, most in the grip of falsely objectifying theories. Nagel believes that his approach to the subjective versus objective distinction can offer more insight than rival views into the mind, particularly on the issue of locating the mind in the physical world.

This chapter will discuss the various components of Nagel's philosophy of mind. Nagel believes that a Cartesian objectification of the mind would be a self-stultifying form of false objectification. It would be an attempt to think ideally non-perspectivally about the irreducibly perspectival. He has, therefore, consistently tried to develop an approach to the mental that fits the Hegelian pattern of objectification described in Chapter 1. In this chapter I shall describe the two major forms of such objectification that Nagel developed in sequence from The View from Nowhere, which expressed the earlier version, to “The Psychophysical Nexus”, which expressed the later version. The earlier version is a comparatively orthodox form of dual aspect theory (VN: 28–50). It has, however, been replaced in Nagel's most recent work on the place of the mind in nature by a later, unorthodox, form of dual aspect theory based on the prospects for a radical reconceptualization of that which underlies both the physical and the mental (VN: 51–2; PN).

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