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Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Sep 11th, 2020

Author’s Argument

The book “What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy” by Thomas Nagel is a masterpiece that encourages people to think for themselves about the philosophical issues facing them. The author introduces nine key questions that can make it easier for philosophers and non-philosophers to understand themselves much better. The author embraces the power of self-reflection. Nagel acknowledges that people should think directly about the nine questions without fear (Nagel 21). He advises readers and scholars to think freely in order to find their answers to the targeted questions. This essay gives a detailed review of Thomas Nagel’s book.

Thesis Statement

Nagel’s masterpiece challenges human beings to think clearly, ask questions, and promote various dialogues that can make it easier for them to address the moral, ethical, and philosophical issues affecting them.

Summary of the Book

Nagel focuses on the fundamental issues that have been faced by mankind for centuries. Nagel’s work shows that readers can study philosophy by thinking about the major questions that have troubled mankind for years. According to the author, the proposed method can offer practical solutions to the nine problems. The nine questions focus on human knowledge of the world, knowledge of minds, relationship between brain and mind, human free will, the basis of morality, possibility of language, unjust inequalities, nature of death, and the real meaning of life (Nagel 36). The author uses several chapters to explain how philosophical questions can be addressed in an attempt to have a common understanding.

The book argues that the main disquiet of philosophy is to offer questions and respond to them. Each chapter guides the reader to investigate the common things associated with life. Basically, the author gives a detailed analysis of the major issues facing mankind in the world. The problematical questions faced by man form the basis of philosophy.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Several strengths can be outlined from this philosophical text. To begin with, the author uses appropriate strategies to achieve the targeted goals. The ultimate purpose of this book is not to do or analyze various philosophical issues. Instead, the book is a guide that encourages people to address the major questions affecting them. This strength explains why both non-philosophers and philosophers will benefit a lot from the text. The author also outlines the major epistemological questions affecting many people today. This approach makes it possible for the reader to understand the major issues affecting mankind today (Craig 49). This book encourages the reader to focus on the best explanations that can address every philosophical question.

Thomas Nagel uses a problem-oriented approach to analyze and describe the nine philosophical questions. He gives a brief analysis of the questions and problems that have characterized different philosophical debates across the globe. This presentation makes it easier for the reader to focus on the major problematical features defining the world today (Craig 29). This approach makes it possible for readers to explore the core questions outlined in the field of philosophy. As well, the author’s intention is not to give answers to the nine questions. This move encourages young philosophers and scholars to come up with their own reasoning. Such answers can be evidence-based because people tend to have their unique beliefs, ideas, expectations, and opportunities (Craig 41).

Additionally, the text treats philosophy as an inspirational and sweet field. The author achieves this goal by arguing that individuals can answer different philosophical problems. Philosophy also presents difficult questions to human beings. However, the field does not outline specific answers to such questions. Such problems therefore remain open thus encouraging more scholars to design their answers. The author also explains how individuals can describe the complex relation existing between the free will and a deterministic world-view (Nagel 87). The book gives detailed steps that can be used to explain this composite scenario.

Nagel also ignores the answers presented by different philosophers. This approach explains why more individuals find the opportunity to formulate their own answers (Nagel 17). The author also remains candid in the text. He gives examples while at the same time being neutral. He also acknowledges that his arguments and answers can be wrong. This strength encourages more persons to explore the topics and come up with their unique answers.

It should also be noted that the book is comprehensible to many individuals. The author uses simple language in order to attract the attention of more people who might be interested in the targeted subject. He has also explored the nine questions in a professional manner. The approach encourages the targeted reader to find potential answers to the outlined questions. Nagel’s work is relevant to individuals who might not be familiar with the complex issues associated with philosophy. The writing is accessible, meaningful, and lucid. Each chapter is carefully crafted in order to encourage more people to analyze the targeted questions (Nagel 28).

On the hand, the book has a number of weaknesses that might discourage seasoned philosophers from reading it. For instance, the text cannot compete with most of the texts in the world of philosophy. This fact explains why many individuals believe strongly that Nagel’s approach is not appropriate towards addressing various philosophical, ontological, and ethical problems (Craig 81). The author also fails to present conclusive religious arguments in his book. Nagel also fails to analyze various religious aspects. This fact explains why most of the ideas are extremely hard to substantiate.

The author assumes that the reader will make an effort to explore most of the issues introduced in the book. This assumption explains why the author fails to facilitate adequate avenues for investigating and finding concrete answers to the nine questions (Nagel 72). This becomes a major weakness that affects the superiority of the book. The absence of references, citations, and bibliographies affects the strength of the arguments presented by the writer. Nagel should have recommended some readings and articles to the reader. This is the case because the author is an experienced philosopher who has a wide knowledge of the subject. These weaknesses therefore explain why Nagel’s book might not be helpful to individuals who are experts in philosophy.

Relevance of the Book

The book “What Does It All Mean?” is relevant because it treats philosophy as a subject that can be studied and understood by every person. Unlike the works written by other philosophers, Nagel’s book gives useful information to encourage more people to address most of the epistemological problems encountered in life. The author presents numerous views that can be used to understand the field much better. He even outlines the major questions troubling mankind today. The text encourages more individuals to use their understanding and knowledge to solve the outlined nine questions (Craig 65). This is possible because philosophy is something guided by thought.

Ordinary people can these address various philosophical issues by asking questions, experimenting, and identifying numerous views to support them. Nagel’s book achieves this goal by explaining how people can use philosophy to understand the major questions facing them. The book is meaningful because it shows how human beings can understand different things characterizing every day-to-day life. It is worth noting that Nagel’s text has its own class. This is true because he treats philosophy as a favorite subject that can be used to give man’s life meaning (Craig 100). The book stimulates the required interest in philosophy thus encouraging more citizens to engage in different studies.

Nagel uses this masterpiece to encourage more individuals to study the universe from different perspectives. The book treats philosophy as a relevant field of study that makes it possible for mankind to understand life and its meaning. The book also challenges the reader to think and focus on various issues that matter the most in life. Individuals can use the power of philosophy to devise personalized answers to these nine questions. This approach will make it easier for them to ask new questions and try out different philosophical ideas. These practices will eventually create more philosophers who are willing to address their challenges, empower others, and make the world a safe place for all (Craig 65).

Recommending the Book to Different Readers

It is agreeable that “life may be not only meaningless but absurd” (Nagel 101). That being the case, Nagel’s book is relevant and should be recommended to every person who wants to understand the power of philosophy. The author uses appropriate language thus making it easier for more readers to undertake various philosophical inquiries. The examples, arguments, and concepts presented in the masterpiece can support more readers in order to become critical thinkers.

Teachers of philosophy can also use this book to empower their students. The examples and views presented in the book will ensure more students are ready to explore the major problems facing humanity. Additionally, people who want to answer various issues such as the nature of death and meaning of life will find this text meaningful. Nagel’s book is therefore worth reading because it focuses on the major philosophical questions that have delineated numerous debates for the past few centuries. More readers will acquire exemplary skills that can help them find duplicable solutions to such problems.

Works Cited

Craig, Edward. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Nagel, Thomas. What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

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