Socratic Puzzles

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Harvard University Press, 1997 - Philosophy - 400 pages
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One of the foremost philosophers of our time, Robert Nozick continues the Socratic tradition of investigation. This volume, which illustrates the originality, force, and scope of his work, also displays Nozick's trademark blending of extraordinary analytical rigor with intellectual playfulness. As such, Socratic Puzzles testifies to the great pleasure that both doing and reading philosophy can be.

Comprising essays and philosophical fictions, classics and new work, the book ranges from Socrates to W. V. Quine, from the implications of an Israeli kibbutz to the flawed arguments of Ayn Rand. Nozick considers the figure of Socrates himself as well as the Socratic method (why is it a "method" of getting at the truth?). Many of these essays bring classic methods to bear on new questions about choice. How should you choose in a disconcerting situation ("Newcomb's Problem") when your decisions are completely predictable? Why do threats and not offers typically coerce our choices? How do we make moral judgments when we realize that our moral principles have exceptions? Other essays present new approaches to familiar intellectual puzzles, from the stress on simplicity in scientific hypotheses to the tendency of intellectuals to oppose capitalism.

As up to date as the latest reflections on animal rights; as perennial as the essentials of aesthetic merit (doggerel by Isaac Newton goes to prove that changing our view of the world won't suffice); as whimsical as a look at how some philosophical problems might appear from God's point of view: these essays attest to the timeliness and timelessness of Nozick's thinking. With a personal introduction, in which Nozick discusses the origins, tools, and themes of his work, Socratic Puzzles demonstrates how philosophy can constitute a way of life.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
CHOICE AND UTILITY
13
Coercion
15
Newcombs Problem and Two Principles of Choice
45
Reflections on Newcombs Problem
74
Interpersonal Utility Theory
85
On Austrian Methodology
110
PHILOSOPHY AND METHODOLOGY
143
Goodman Nelson on Merit Aesthetic
273
Who Would Choose Socialism?
277
Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?
280
The Characteristic Features of Extremism
296
War Terrorism ReprisalsDrawing Some Moral Lines
300
Do Animals Have Rights?
305
PHILOSOPHICAL FICTIONS
311
Fiction
313

Socratic Puzzles
145
Experience Theory and Language
156
Simplicity as FallOut
182
InvisibleHand Explanations
191
ETHICS AND POLITICS
199
Moral Complications and Moral Structures
201
On the Randian Argument
249
Weighted Voting and OneMan OneVote
265
DISCUSSIONS AND REVIEWS
271
R S V P A Story
317
Testament
324
Teleology
329
Notes and References
333
Credits
391
Name Index
393
Subject Index
397
Copyright

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About the author (1997)

Educated at Columbia and Princeton universities, Robert Nozick is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He rose to eminence in the last quarter of the twentieth century as a creative philosopher who has expressed philosophical truths beyond the reach of analytic argumentation. Honed in the technical intricacies of analytic philosophy, he has nonetheless restored meditation to its proper place in the philosophical canon. Nozick's first book, Anarchy, State and Utopia (initially published in 1974), won the National Book Award in 1975 and became the fundamental text of the Libertarian movement. Nozick's second book, Philosophical Explanations, was given the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa in 1982. It covers a wide range of basic philosophical topics: the question why there is something rather than nothing, the identity of the self, knowledge and skepticism, free will, the foundation of ethnics, and the meaning of life. Nozick abandons philosophical proof or argumentation as too coercive and opts instead for methods of explanation that promote understanding. This approach has culminated in his third book, The Examined Life.

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