Argument on Consciousness by Thomas Nagel, Free Essay in Philosophy

Published: 2022-02-24
Argument on Consciousness by Thomas Nagel, Free Essay in Philosophy
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Consciousness
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1513 words
13 min read

Thomas Nagel (1937) is a famous American philosopher and author of various books and articles and a professor of philosophy and law at the University of Network. His philosophical interest relies on legal, political, and ethics. The text "What Is It Like to Be a Bat" explores the reductionist approach that most philosophers today propose as the best solution for mental problems. Consciousness may make the mind and body problem difficult because materialists do not offer the issue sufficient attention. Materialists have concentrated on the reduction problem of physical and mental concepts and treat it like the motion of molecules and temperature as well as water. The reductionism suggests that brain phenomena can be reduced to a physical like neurological activity of the mind. According to Nagel, consciousness is the major issue facing physicalist and reductionist theories. However, this essay focuses on the reflection of the article "What Is It Like to Be a Bat" by Thomas Nagel's argument on consciousness.

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Thomas Nagel Argument on Consciousness

Nagel argues that a conscious experience may exist in various forms throughout an animal life, but he is not sure whether it on lower organisms. Awareness is the part of the brain that has thoughts, experiences, emotions, and sensations (Nagel). The level of knowledge comprises a conscious mind that shows what persons are aware of daily activities. The author clarifies walking consciousness as perception, language, and problem-solving. States of consciousness include sleep, hypervigilance, dreaming, and meditative state. People who lack awareness have sleeping difficulties, a situation which leads to irritability, mental disorder, changes in personality, and increases anxiety. People who have a high level of consciousness could monitor and control their feelings or emotions since they have proper inhibitory control, cognitive inhibition, working memory, and attention (Nagel). The reductionism theory finds it challenging to explain consciousness since it views mental activity in terms of objective descriptions of mind and disregards the subjective character of experience. A person, animal, and different cognitive system might be termed as a conscious in various senses such as sentience, self-consciousness, and what it is like as well as wakefulness. The state of consciousness may include; the condition that one is aware of, which involves a meta-intentionality or meta-mentality (Honderich 5). Unconscious desires and thoughts in this sense are what people are not aware of due to a lack of self-knowledge. The qualitative state is regarded as conscious because it contains experiential or qualitative properties. The phenomenal applies to the overall experience structure and sensory qualia and can be temporal, conceptual, and spatial. What it is like states refers to internal conceptions that make a state qualitative or phenomenal.

The argument on Reductionism Theory

The reductionism approach indicates how mental concepts can be reduced and explained using physical phenomena (Honderich 5). Reductionism tries to attain great objectivity by reducing dependence on species or a person from a particular point of view. The Nagel article of "What Is It Like to Be a Bat" explores the reductionist approach that some philosophers use to propose the solution for mind and body problems. According to Nagel, consciousness makes the body and mind problem intractable. The reductionist euphoria has recently produced different analyses of mental concepts and phenomena that are designed to explain reduction or psychophysical identification and materialism. Conscious experience occurs in various levels of animal life in planets, solar system, or an entire world.

Argument on Bat

Nagel argues that bats are like mammals and have experience since there is something to be like a bat. However, the sensory system and activities of bats are different from people because they perceive size, motion, distance, and texture via echolocation or sonar. Thus, no need to believe that bats' experiences are subjective like human beings. The imagination of people draws their own experience if they don't attach their meaning to the suggestion because it could portray neurophysiological structure the same in the bat (Honderich 5). In most cases, people and bat may share the same experiences, such as lust, pain, and fear and hunger, although most bats (Microchiroptera) views the external world by echolocation, sonar, and detecting the reflections. Their minds are designed to correlate the impulses with the following information and echoes, enabling them to discriminate against size, shape, distance, texture, and motion. Sonar is a perception that supports subjectivity like anything one can imagine or experience. The opinion holds that consciousness is subjective by nature, and it is hard to analyze it in terms of objective (physical phenomena) because it requires a single point of view. Hence, the reductionism approach argues that the brain cannot be reduced because it is equivalent to consciousness. Accordingly, the author bases his argument on different qualities of consciousness. The first property is that the organism which is conscious by mental states, the subjective character exists of experience of that species (Tsuchiya). Nagel shows the importance of consciousness to animal life on the universe, such as echolocation bats. In this case, the author believes that subjective experience supports the facts which exist beyond human concepts and can be expressed through human language. Thus, the character of an individual experience might be tied to a specific point of view like privacy


The term concerned with the approach of knowledge, rationality, and justification of the beliefs. Nagel, in his article "What Is It Like to Be a Bat," focuses on a philosophical analysis of knowledge and how it links with belief, truth, and justification as well as skepticism (Nagel). Epistemological people to learn that consciousness helps in understanding specific aspects of reality where one can realize something he/she did not believe.

Subjective and Objective

Nagel's idea of consciousness has strong influences on political and moral philosophy. The practical reasoning has emulated some formal principles such as self-beliefs. Nagel criticizes the motivated desire approach that focuses on moral action as motivation. According to the theory, when an individual accepts the ethical act, it means that those practices are motivated.

The approach of morality explains why people are unique. Individuals have principles and believe that they avoid issues like steal, lie, and murder. In this theory, Nagel assumes that circumstances or events are natural objects since the external universe discovers them, which are constructed by agents (Tsuchiya). Objective morality argues that morality is universal, and they exist in nature. Nagel claims that it is hard to accept individual actions, not unless one recognizes the grounds that formalizes the physical forms. The capacity to adopt an objective raises the different points of view in central and specific to the human mind. Subjective morality is vital if they don't conflict with the demands of morality. However, personal morality argues that morals are human-made, and they vary from one person to another. Nagel emphasis subjective character, where he states that even if one has the ability for imagination, he/she can only imagine things that are perceived through sonar and web, feet, and arms.

Critical Evaluation of the Article

The article is sound because, according to Nagel, the nature and structure of mind in bats make it hard for them to feel subjectivity because they may exist beyond the facts and human concept. Nagel also believes that external components do not explain well the unique point of view of the experience (Nagel). However, the author refutes the science, where he says that consciousness assists in relating the memories to the present sensations, which give persons a sense of continuity with experience or personal identity. Consciousness helps individuals to plan and control their future actions where they can base their information from links and monitoring between present sensations and memories. Also, Nagel argues that a conscious experience may exist in various forms throughout an animal life, but he is not sure whether it on lower organisms. So, more research is needed to categorize the conscious experience, whether in higher or small animals.


The article teaches the relationship between consciousness and perception, problem-solving, and language. For example, people who have conscious problems may have sleeping difficulties leading to mental disorder, irritability, and changes in personality. Hence, individuals who have a high level of consciousness can monitor and control their feelings or emotions. Nagel reiterates that some factors like attitudes, motives, mindset, and interest, as well as the mood, may have an impact on consciousness because they influence, sensations, feelings, thoughts, and memories. States of consciousness include sleep, hypervigilance, dreaming, and meditative state. Nagel also introduces the approach of reductionism, which tries to attain great objectivity by reducing dependence on species or person in a particular point of view. Therefore, Nagel tries to substitute behavioral accounts from an objective account of the brain for real things to avoid reduction.

Works Cited

Honderich, Ted. "Introduction to Thomas Nagel's Lecture." Philosophers of Our Times (2015): 5. Retrieved from

Nagel, Thomas. What is it like to be a Bat?/Wie ist es, eine Fledermaus zu sein?: Englisch/Deutsch.[Was bedeutet das alles?]. Reclam Verlag, 2016.

Tsuchiya, Naotsugu. ""What is it like to be a bat?"-a pathway to the answer from the integrated information theory." Philosophy Compass 12.3 (2017): e12407.

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