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Nagel, Ernest (1901–85)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD047-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Ernest Nagel was arguably the pre-eminent American philosopher of science from the mid 1930s to the 1960s. He taught at Columbia University for virtually his entire career. Although he shared with Bertrand Russell and with members of the Vienna Circle a respect for and sensitivity to developments in mathematics and the natural sciences, he endorsed a strand in the thought of Charles S. Peirce and John Dewey that Nagel himself called ‘contextual naturalism’. Among the main features of contextual naturalism is its distrust of reductionist claims that are not the outcomes of scientific inquiries.

Nagel’s contextual naturalism infused his influential, detailed and informed essays on probability, explanation in the natural and social sciences, measurement, history of mathematics, and the philosophy of law. It is reflected, for example, in his trenchant critiques of Russell’s reconstruction of the external world and Russell’s epistemology as well as cognate views endorsed at one time or another by members of the Vienna Circle.

Citing this article:
Levi, Isaac. Nagel, Ernest (1901–85), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD047-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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