Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

by Robert Nozick

Paperback(New Edition)

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Recent scientific advances have placed many traditional philosophical concepts under great stress. In this pathbreaking book, the eminent philosopher Robert Nozick rethinks and transforms the concepts of truth, objectivity, necessity, contingency, consciousness, and ethics. Using an original method, he presents bold new philosophical theories that take account of scientific advances in physics, evolutionary biology, economics, and cognitive neuroscience, and casts current cultural controversies (such as whether all truth is relative and whether ethics is objective) in a wholly new light. Throughout, the book is open to, and engages in, the bold exploration of new philosophical possibilities.

Philosophy will never look the same. Truth is embedded in space-time and is relative to it. However, truth is not socially relative among human beings (extraterrestrials are another matter). Objective facts are invariant under specified transformations; objective beliefs are arrived at by a process in which biasing factors do not play a significant role. Necessity's domain is contracted (there are no important metaphysical necessities; water is not necessarily H2O) while the important and useful notion of degrees of contingency is elaborated. Gradations of consciousness (based upon "common registering") yield increasing capacity to fit actions to the world. The originating function of ethics is cooperation to mutual benefit, and evolution has instilled within humans a "normative module": the capacities to learn, internalize, follow norms, and make evaluations. Ethics has normative force because of the connection between ethics and conscious self-awareness. Nozick brings together the book's novel theories to show the extent to which there are objective ethical truths.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674012455
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/15/2003
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 8.88(h) x (d)

About the Author

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

Table of Contents

Introduction: On Philosophical Method


1. Truth and Relativism

Is Truth Relative?

Who Wants Relativism?

Truth in Space and Time

The Truth Property

Is a Theory of Truth Possible?

Is Truth Socially Relative?

Does Relativism Undercut Itself?

The Correspondence Theory

2. Invariance and Objectivity

Objective Facts

Admissible Transformations

Two Types of Philosophical Account

The Ordering of Objectiveness


Objective Beliefs and Biasing Factors

Dimensions of Truth

The Objectivity of Science

The Functional View

Underdetermination of Theory

Rationality, Progress, Objectivity, and Veridicality

3. Necessity and Contingency

Epistemology of Necessity


On the Supposed Necessity of Water's Being H2O

The Withering of Metaphysical Necessity

Explaining Away Necessities

Logical and Mathematical Necessity

Degrees of Contingency

The Nature of Actuality

The Ultimate Theory of the World


4. The Realm of Consciousness

The Function of Consciousness

Gradations of Awareness

The Context of Consciousness

The Zoom-Lens Theory

Synthesizing and Filtering Data

Common Knowledge

The Functions of Phenomenology

Mind-Body Relations

5. The Genealogy of Ethics

The Theory of Ethics

The Ubiquity of Ethics

Coordination to Mutual Benefit

Coordination via Ethical Norms

The Evaluation of Systems of Coordination

The Core Principle of Ethics

Normative Force and the Normativity Module

Evaluative Capacities

Higher Layers of Ethics

Ethical Truth and Ethical Objectivity

The Unpredictability of Human Behavior

Ethics and Conscious Self-Awareness



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