Volume 17, 1992
The Desire to Be God
Subjective and Objective in Nagel’s The View from Nowhere and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness
This paper argues that the force and weaknesses of Thomas Nagel’s arguments against psychophysical reductionism can be felt more fully when held up to the defense of a similar view in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. What follows for both from their shared rejection of psychophysical reductionism is a defense of the claim that an objective conception of subjective reality is necessarily incomplete. I examine each one’s defense of this claim. However, although they both claim an objective conception of subjectivity will be incomplete, they do think we have some ability to form such a conception and I examine next the quite different ways in which Nagel and Sartre relate this ability to our use of language. The last sections of the paper discuss each philosopher’s belief that although the tension between the objective and the subjective is irreconcilable, humans continue to desire such reconciliation, i.e., they desire to be God.