Nagel was born into a Jewish family in Yugoslavia, but moved to the U.S. where he went to school. He studied at Cornell and Oxford, and completed a Ph.D. at Harvard under the supervision of John Rawls.
Nagel is perhaps most famous for his 1974 paper, “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?”. In it, Nagel argues that there is something fundamentally important about conciousness that is often overlooked — namely, that an organism has mental states and is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism. A pure reduction of mental states to physical brain states is therefore incomplete — we must account for what it is like to be in mental states.
Name: Thomas Nagel
Born: July 4, 1937
Degrees: B.A. (Cornell, 1958)
B.Phil. (Oxford, 1960)
Ph.D. (Harvard, 1963)
D.Litt. (Honuorary, Oxford, 1963)
Awards: Rolf Schock Prize (2008)
Balzan Prize (2008)