1. Read Thomas Nagel’s “The Absurd” (available in Moodle). Make sure you understand Nagel’s main point about absurdity as well as his other, related arguments.
2. Write an essay on ONE of the following topics.
a. Do you agree with Nagel’s distinction between ordinary and philosophical types of absurdity?
b. Do you agree with Nagel’s criticism of other philosophers’ arguments about the absurdity of life?
c. Do you agree with Nagel’s comparison between absurdity and skepticism?
d. Do you agree with Nagel’s point about self-consciousness in relation to absurdity?
Citation: Nagel, Thomas. Mortal Questions. Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Your task is twofold:
First, and most importantly, you should give a careful exposition of Nagel’s argument. This should constitute approximately 1/2 of your essay. Make sure that your exposition is focused. In other words, if you are dealing with one part of Nagel’s argument, there is no need for you to summarize the whole paper. You are partly being evaluated on your ability to focus your paper on the topic that you are interested in. Ask yourself: What is the structure of Nagel’s argument? What are his premises? What are his conclusions? What support does he offer for his premises? (You may, if you wish, set out part of all of Nagel’s argument in standard form, as part of your exposition. But if you do this, you must still describe the argument: in other words, the standard form cannot be the entirety of your exposition.)
2. Critical Evaluation
Second, you should offer a critical evaluation of exactly one part or aspect of Nagel’s argument. This should come in the second part of your essay, after the exposition, and should constitute approximately 1/2 of your essay. Your critical evaluation should be narrowly focused, and should be directed specifically at one aspect of Nagel’s argument. Your critical evaluation might, for instance, address one of the following questions: How well does Nagel set out his topic? Are there defects in either his conception of the topic or of the relevant notions involved? (Be specific.) How successful is one part or aspect of Nagel’s argument? (Be specific.). Does Nagel’s conclusion follow logically from his premises? Why, or why not? (Be specific.)
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