Philosophy of Science as First Philosophy The Liberal Polemics of Ernest Nagel

In Matthias Neubar & Adam Tamas Tuboly (eds.), Ernest Nagel: Philosophy of Science and the Fight for Clarity. Springer (forthcoming)
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This chapter explores Nagel’s polemics. It shows these have a two-fold character: (i) to defend liberal civilization against all kinds of enemies. And (ii) to defend what he calls ‘contextual naturalism.’ And the chapter shows that (i-ii) reinforce each other and undermine alternative political and philosophical programs. The chapter’s argument responds to an influential argument by George Reisch that Nagel’s professional stance represents a kind of disciplinary retreat from politics. In order to respond to Reisch the relationship between Nagel’s philosophy of science and his politics is explored and this chapter shows how both are anchored in what Nagel once called his ‘contextual naturalism’—a metaphysics that resists imposing the unity of the world and treats all entities as embedded in a wider network of entities. Part of the argument traces out how Nagel’s views on responsible speech and professionalism reflect a distinct understanding of the political role of philosophers of science.



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Eric Schliesser
University of Amsterdam

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