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Thomas Nagel and the Religious Temperament

Thomas Nagel has written what amounts to a sequel to the chapter in his book "The Last Word," where he writes about the fear of religion. In the new essay, "Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament," he sets out to discover whether it is possible to find a non-religious answer to what he calls the cosmic question: how can one bring into one's individual life a fuller recognition of one's relation to the universe as a whole?

Many non-believers, Nagel finds, regard this question as unanswerable and probably meaningless, therefore absurd. Their position is what he calls affectless atheism or hard-headed atheism. It is perfectly possible, starting from this position, to take a deep interest in scientific questions about biology and the cosmos, but knowledge of such matters does not translate into an answer to the cosmic question. However, Nagel suggests that it may be possible to formulate what he calls natural teleology, a Platonic but non-religious understanding of our place in the universe.

I discuss the article further here.


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