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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.
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
Status of the Hypotheses
Explanation versus Proof
1. The Identity of the Self
I. Personal Identity Through Time
The Closest Continuer Theory
The Theory Applied
Structuring Philosophical Concepts
Ties and Caring
Essence as a Self
How is Reflexive Self-Knowledge Possible?
Classification and Entification
What Synthesis Explains
Unities and Wholes
The Self-Conception of the Self
An Ontologically Solid Self?
2. Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?
Fecundity and Self-Subsumption
The Principle of Sufficient Reason
How Are Laws Possible? Beyond
3. Knowledge and Skepticism
Conditions for Knowledge
Ways and Methods
Knowledge of Necessities
Cases and Complications
Skepticism and the Conditions for Knowledge
Details of Nonclosure
Proof and the Transmission of Knowledge
Knowing That One Knows
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?
4. Free Will
I. Choice and Indeterminism
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
How the Tracking Is Mediated
How Illuminating Is the Parallel?
Does Neurophysiological Reduction Undercut Tracking?
Does Sociobiology Undercut Tracking?
Acts in Equilibrium
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
More on the r x H Structure
Offenders and the Law
Determinism and Punishment
5. Foundations of Ethics
I. Ethical Push
Inconsistency and Motivation
The Moral Benefit
Leading the Most Valuable
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
Pluralism and Creativity
II. Ethical Pull
The Moral Basis
Blocking Moral Avoidance
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
IV. The Life of Value
Harmonious Hierarchical Development
Developing Self and Others
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
Ethical Explanation and Self-Subsumption
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)
Meaning and Value
Philosophy as Part of the Humanities
Philosophy as an Art Form