Thomas Nagel What Does It All Mean Summary

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“What does it all mean?”. Thomas Nagel writes of different philosophical questions in which humans want or crave answers for. Throughout this book you will see how Nagel sates his personal opinions and leaves essential questions open for the reader to form or create their own opinions forcing them to think for himself or herself. Nagel thinks that the best way to study philosophy is to think about the questions openly, initiating us to entertain many other solutions. In Thomas Nagel’s book “What does it all mean?”, the author positions his opinions and leaves many questions open for discussion causing our curiosity and self-formed opinions to debut.
Throughout chapter two, Nagel introduces many different perceptions of reality.
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8) which clearly states his skeptic view on his question. He supports this claim by writing “Everything else is farther away from you than your inner experiences and thoughts, and reaches you only through them”. This proves that your experiences are emotion and impression based.
Nagel then jumps into the notion of solipsism. Solipsism is the view that “your mind is the only thing that exists” (pg. 11). He immediately broadcasts his position on not being a solipsist and continues with an example of writing this book. His example claimed that there would not be anybody to read the book due to the thought of only our mind existing. Solipsism is a dream that one cannot wake up from or a hallucination with nobody to contradict it.
The next view Nagel speaks on is skepticism on the external world. He indicates that the only certain thing we know is not knowing anything. For a lack of better words, skepticism can be described as an “I don’t know” approach. He explains that our minds are the only real thing that exists or that we don’t even know if there is a world that exists external to our own minds. Nagel suggests that you can even be unsure of your past because you would have to resort back to your mind and would be stuck in a constant loop. This is because you are basing your knowledge on your past existences which Nagel argues that you can still be uncertain about because you don’t know
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Verificationism is the “idea of the things that exist is just our idea of what we can observe” (pg. 15). This argues that reality is merely what we can observe, as opposed to the other views previously mentioned, which both doubt the legitimacy of the external world. Verificationism is an individual awaking from a dream and being able to distinguish when dreaming, and when hallucinating. It also states that if each person has a different perception of something they saw, there is no accurate perception of anything in reality.
Nagel’s last view was egocentric predicament. Egocentric predicament is the idea that individuals cannot see reality outside of their own perceptions and observations. Nagel supports this by stating “there may be no way out of the cage of your own mind” (pg. 17). He goes on to say that it is impossible to believe that all things in the world around us may or may not truly exist. He closes by taking the side that he believes everything does exist.
It is significantly easier to believe that the world exists and that the people we interact with are real as opposed to believing there is nothing else beyond our minds. It is pointless to dig for answers on this issue just like it is impossible to find, therefore leaving us to just

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