Philosophical Explanations / Edition 1

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Overview

In this highly original work, Robert Nozick develops new views on philosophy's central topics and weaves them into a unified philosophical perspective. It is many years since a major work in English has ranged so widely over philosophy's fundamental concerns: the identity of the self, knowledge and skepticism, free will, the question of why there is something rather than nothing, the foundations of ethics, the meaning of life.

Writing in a distinctive and personal philosophical voice, Mr. Nozick presents a new mode of philosophizing. In place of the usual semi-coercive philosophical goals of proof, of forcing people to accept conclusions, this book seeks philosophical explanations and understanding, and thereby stays truer to the original motivations for being interested in philosophy.

Combining new concepts, daring hypotheses, rigorous reasoning, and playful exploration, the book exemplifies how philosophy can be part of the humanities.

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Editorial Reviews

New Republic
Philosophical Explanations "will attract intelligent people of all backgrounds...Nozick is moved by a splendid passion...His arguments link his explanations to what he is rightly confident of his vision of a persistent role for philosophy in common life.
Boston Globe
This "remarkable new book...brings a reader into immediate and unmistakable contact with an uncommon mind. The clarity of [Nozick's] style mirrors the lucidity of his thought...This is a major book.
New York Times Book Review
It is important for you, whoever you are, to read...this book.
Washington Post Book World
Nozick is "a theorist with a style and a method of his own, and ideas as bold as they are bright."
New York Review of Books

Toward the end of his talented, diverse...book, Robert Nozick embraces the idea of philosophy as an art form, and of the philosopher as a literary creator who works with ideas...[This book] is as brilliant and exciting as anything in contemporary philosophy.
— Bernard Williams

Fortune
It is not surprising that Nozick has a following. He does not come at the reader with heavy solemnity. His prose style is insouciant, his manner whimsical, and he gives every indication of having lots of fun.
New Republic - Ian Hacking
Nozick is moved by a splendid passion...His arguments link his explanations to what he is rightly confident of...his vision of a persistent role for philosophy in common life.
Boston Globe - Robert Taylor
[This] remarkable new book...brings a reader into immediate and unmistakable contact with an uncommon mind. The clarity of [Nozick's] style mirrors the lucidity of his thought...This is a major book.
New York Times Book Review - Alasdair Macintyre
An important book...[Nozick is] a philosopher who is answering the questions posed by such philosophers as Kierkegaard, Sartre, Marcel and Buber with the aid of tools produced by such very different philosophers as W. V. Quine, Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam...[He displays a] striking and imaginative originality. For he does nothing less than propose a new way of doing philosophy...Perhaps one good way for the serious general reader to attack this often difficult but always rewarding book would be to begin at the end. First read the fine last chapter on 'Philosophy and the Meaning of Life'...It should then be very clear why it is important for you, whoever you are, to go back and read the rest of this book.
Washington Post Book World - Maurice Cranston
[Nozick is] a theorist with a style and method of his own, and ideas as bold as they are bright.
New York Review of Books - Bernard Williams
Toward the end of his talented, diverse...book, Robert Nozick embraces the idea of philosophy as an art form, and of the philosopher as a literary creator who works with ideas...[This book] is as brilliant and exciting as anything in contemporary philosophy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674664791
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1983
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 784
  • Sales rank: 937,092
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.47 (h) x 1.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Nozick was Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University. His book Anarchy, State, and Utopia received a National Book Award.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Coercive Philosophy

Philosophical Explanations

Status of the Hypotheses

Explanation versus Proof

Philosophical Pluralism

METAPHYSICS

1. The Identity of the Self

I. Personal Identity Through Time

The Closest Continuer Theory

The Theory Applied

Overlap

Structuring Philosophical Concepts

Problem Cases

Ties and Caring

II. Reflexivity

Reflexive Self-Reference

Essence as a Self

How is Reflexive Self-Knowledge Possible?

Classification and Entification

Self-Synthesis

What Synthesis Explains

Unities and Wholes

The Self-Conception of the Self

Reflexive Caring

An Ontologically Solid Self?

2. Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

Explaining Everything

Inegalitarian Theories

Egalitarianism

Fecundity

Fecundity and Self-Subsumption

Ultimacy

The Principle of Sufficient Reason

How Are Laws Possible? Beyond

Mystical Experience

EPISTEMOLOGY

3. Knowledge and Skepticism

I. Knowledge

Conditions for Knowledge

Ways and Methods

Knowledge of Necessities

Cases and Complications

II. Skepticism

Skeptical Possibilities

Skeptical Results

Nonclosure

Skepticism and the Conditions for Knowledge

Narrower Skepticisms

Details of Nonclosure

Proof and the Transmission of Knowledge

Skepticism Revisited

Knowing That One Knows

III. Evidence

The Evidential Connection

Evidence Based on Probability

Inference Based on Probability

The Contingency of the Evidential Tie

Is There Evidence for Skepticism?

Knowledge, Evidence, and Justification

Evidence for the Evidential Relation

How the Regress Stops

Knowing Inside Out

What's So Special about Knowledge?

VALUE

4. Free Will

I. Choice and Indeterminism

Weigh(t)ing Reasons

Nonrandom Weighting

Understanding and Explaining Free Choices

Could One Have Bestowed Otherwise?

Why Free Will, and How

Is Free Will Valuable?

II. Deteminism and Aligning with Value

Tracking Bestness

How the Tracking Is Mediated

How Illuminating Is the Parallel?

Does Neurophysiological Reduction Undercut Tracking?

Does Sociobiology Undercut Tracking?

Acts in Equilibrium

Self-choosing

III. Retributive Punishment

A Framework for Retribution

A Rationale Is Needed

Retribution and Revenge

The Message of Retribution

Connecting with Correct Values

The Act Requirement

Flouting Correct Values

Retributive Contours

More on the r x H Structure

Offenders and the Law

Determinism and Punishment

5. Foundations of Ethics

I. Ethical Push

Glaucon's Challenge

Inconsistency and Motivation

The Moral Benefit

Leading the Most Valuable

Life

Intrinsic Value

Degree of Organic Unity

Value as Degree of Organic Unity

The Structure of Value

Conditions on Value and Disvalue

The Allure of Value

Explaining the Role of Organic Unity

Designing Value

Pluralism and Creativity

II. Ethical Pull

The Moral Basis

Seeking Value

Blocking Moral Avoidance

Moral Responsiveness

Responding and Anti-Responding

Responsive Interaction and Moral Principles

III. The Structure of Ethical Pull

Moral Complications and Moral Structures

The Simple Balancing Structure

Judgment in Ethics

The Complex Structure: Alternative Actions

Measurement of Moral Weight

The Complex Structure: Larger Courses of Action

Deontology and Teleology

Rights

IV. The Life of Value

Self-Improvement

Harmonious Hierarchical Development

Developing Self and Others

Flourishing

The Value of Valuers

Treating in Accordance with Value

Responsive Connection to Reality

Parity of Push and Pull

Does Push Cover Pull?

V. Fact and Value

Chasms

Ethical Explanation and Self-Subsumption

Kantian Structuring

VI. The Basis of Value

The Euthyphro Question

Nihilism, Realism, Idealism, Romanticism, and Realizationism

Choosing That There Be Value

The Relationship Between Fact and Value

6. Philosophy and the Meaning of Life

Modes of Meaning(fulness)

Death

Traces

God's Plan

Transcending Limits

The Unlimited

Meaning and Value

Philosophy as Part of the Humanities

Reductionism

Nonreductive Understanding

Philosophy as an Art Form

Notes

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