Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)

First Supervisor

Professor Renee Kohler-Ryan

Second Supervisor

Fr Brendan Purcell


The scientific picture of the world is one of invisible particles and empty space, but this is not the world of our everyday experience. How can we reconcile the scientific view of the world with the view from our ordinary perspective? This thesis puts Thomas Nagel and Bernard Lonergan into dialogue on the question of the mind’s place in the world. Coming from different philosophical traditions, both thinkers provide a bigger picture in which to place materialism and to assess its errors. Thomas Nagel criticises modern forms of materialism because they try to explain away the reality of our perspective by reducing it to physical events in a perspectiveless scientific picture. He criticises the fundamental conception of the physical world upon which these reductionist theories depend, a conception that had its origins in the seventeenth century scientific revolution and one which conceived of the physical world as having no place for subjects’ perspectives. In Lonergan’s opinion, the reduction of the human consciousness to mere physical events is the result of a truncated conception of objectivity. The reason for this mistaken conception is that we confuse two distinct kinds of knowing, which in turn is because of a mistaken cognitional theory. This thesis argues that Nagel makes some insightful contributions to the place of mind in the cosmos, but that he, like the reductive materialists that he criticises, is limited by a truncated conception of objectivity that prevents him grasping the nature of the mind. This suggests that future philosophies of mind need to examine their presuppositions more deeply and be open to dialogue with one of the less well-known traditions of philosophy in contemporary scholarship – the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, in which Lonergan worked.