Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

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9780674012455: Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

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.

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Review:

Robert Nozick is a heavyweight among philosophers, and Invariances is just what one might expect from him. The book takes up a battery of core metaphysical questions: the nature of truth, objectivity, necessity, consciousness, and ethics. "My own philosophical bent is to open possibilities for consideration, not to close them," he writes. To that end, Invariances asks at least as many questions as it answers. Nonetheless, Nozick tackles his themes rigorously, making this a closely argued and engaging book.

Nozick is a political as well as theoretical thinker, and he is among the staunchest proponents of libertarianism. Here he widens his scope to investigate the metaquestions of philosophy and spells out his original conception of objectivity in the world. Nozick, who is Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard, writes with an analytic inclination that can be challenging for lay readers, but his arguments are always intelligent and intriguing. --Eric de Place

From the Back Cover:

Excerpts from Robert Nozick's "Invariances" Necessary truths are invariant across all possible worlds, contingent ones across only some. No wonder necessity lures philosophers. It is the flame, the philosopher the moth. Our intuitions that certain statements are necessary do not powerfully support this claim when natural selection would produce strong intuitions of their self-evidence, even were these statements (only) contingently true. Contemporary philosophers who give great weight to intuitions need to offer some account of why such intuitions are reliable and are to be trusted. Of course, if the purpose of such philosophy is merely to codify and systematize the intuitions that (for whatever reason) are held, then a philosophy built upon intuitions will need no further basis. And it will have no further validity. You might think that an insight into metaphysical impossibility could save the physicists much useless work by thereby excluding something as physically possible. Things seem to have worked in the opposite direction, though. Driven by a need to explain strange data, physicists formulate theories that countenance what previously was held to be metaphysically impossible. . . The physical tail wags the metaphysical dog. Why is there an objective world? Within evolutionary cosmology scientific laws might be viewed as the heritable structure of a universe, akin to what in biology would be an organism's genetic endowment. . . Suppose that the reproductive process of a universe produces transformed offspring universes that differ from their parent. The greater the transformations that a law is invariant under, and the wider their number, the greater is that law's heritability. The vast majority of the universes that exist through the processes of evolutionary cosmology, therefore, will exhibit laws that are invariant under a wide range of significant transformations. Such invariance, we have seen, is exactly what constitutes objectiveness. Evolutionary cosmology gives us objective worlds.

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Descripción HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.In Invariances Robert Nozick rethinks and transforms the concepts of truth, objectivity, necessity, contingency, consciousness and ethics. He presents bold philosophical theories that take account of scientific advances in physics, evolutionary biology, economics and cognitive neuroscience, and casts contemporary cultural controversies in a new light. Nº de ref. de la librería APC9780674012455

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Descripción HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. In Invariances Robert Nozick rethinks and transforms the concepts of truth, objectivity, necessity, contingency, consciousness and ethics. He presents bold philosophical theories that take account of scientific advances in physics, evolutionary biology, economics and cognitive neuroscience, and casts contemporary cultural controversies in a new light. Nº de ref. de la librería APC9780674012455

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