03 July 2015

Review: The View from Nowhere by Thomas Nagel

I'm back! (For now, anyway.) I'm kicking off with a book I read years ago but never reviewed, but thankfully I wrote about it for my specialist exam, which means I have a little bit to say about it. Riveting!

Hardcover, 244 pages
Published 1986
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2012
The View from Nowhere
by Thomas Nagel

Within the philosophy/history of science criticism I have read, it is very rare to find works that view epistemology or detachment without some examination of the gendering of those concepts. Thomas Nagel’s The View from Nowhere (1986) is a rare example of such a work, but this is because Nagel’s project is defining objectivity and showing some uses of it in very abstract contexts; unlike Thomas Kuhn, Donna Haraway, Stephen Jay Gould, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Amanda Anderson, Mary Poovey, or other critics, Nagel does not look at actual examples of practices of science or objectivity.

Nagel defines objectivity by saying, “A view or form of thought is more objective than another if it relies less on the specifics of the individual’s makeup and position in the world, or on the character of the particular type of creature he is. The wider the range of subjective types to which a form of understanding is accessible—the less it depends on specific subjective capacities—the more objective it is” (5). The View from Nowhere, however, contains little discussion of any aspect of an “individual’s makeup and position”; the text does not mention sex, or gender, or class. The end result of this, though, is that Nagel’s monograph is not very useful to my own project, for it is not a discussion of how objectivity has been understood, but of how one particular person thinks it ought to be defined and practiced. Nagel’s discussion does not seem particularly illuminating, except as a very general rationale for objectivity.

No comments:

Post a Comment