Thomas Nagel
Philosopher, Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy
Born in:
Serbia

“If we tried to rely entirely on reason, and pressed it hard, our lives and beliefs would collapse — a form of madness that may actually occur if the inertial force of taking the world and life for granted is somehow lost. If we lose our grip on that, reason will not give it back to us,” philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote in his book Mortal Questions. Nagel is well known for challenging the popular materialist views of the mind, particularly in his essay "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?" (1974). In it, he argues that the subjective experience of consciousness — what philosophers call the “qualia” — could not be fully reduced to the physical aspects of the brain. The work helped cement his reputation as one of the most incisive and imaginative of contemporary philosophers. Nagel is professor emeritus at NYU, where he taught for over three decades. In 2008, he was awarded a Rolf Schock Prize for his contributions to philosophy. Updated July 2018