ABSTRACT

This chapter discusses four interrelated topics. I shall first characterize Nagel’s distinctive treatment of the issue of realism in more depth. As Chapter 1 established, Nagel believes that scientific understanding is capable of supplying that which Williams called an “absolute conception” of the world, namely, a conception of the world that is maximally independent of our distinctively human perspective (VN: 15; B. Williams 1978: 64-8). In the first section, “Cartesian absoluteness”, I shall describe this view in order to establish how Nagel positions himself between two kinds of critic: those who undervalue objectivity and those who overvalue it (VN: 5). This discussion is intended to set the stage for three corollaries of Nagel’s realism, each of which is of considerable interest in its own right.