Cover: Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, from Harvard University PressCover: Invariances in PAPERBACK


The Structure of the Objective World

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$46.00 • £40.95 • €41.95

ISBN 9780674012455

Publication Date: 10/15/2003


432 pages

5-11/16 x 8-7/8 inches

Belknap Press


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Though written in his usual clear style, [Invariances] is in many ways a daunting book. It is rich in detail and breathtaking in sweep. But it is not, as Mr. Nozick himself warns us, systematic. Based on his John Locke lectures at Oxford University in 1997 and on other lectures elsewhere, its five parts explore relativism and truth, objectivity, necessity, consciousness and ethics… Philosophy begins in wonder, [Nozick] writes at the end, with a silent nod to A.N. Whitehead. Indeed, Mr. Nozick had a Romantic streak, both in his Utopian vision of society and in his conduct of philosophy. But this Byronic restlessness was the fault of his virtues: rare fluency and audacity—a fearless readiness to follow an idea where it led. Like any endeavor, philosophy needs explorers as well as mapmakers. As Mr. Nozick liked to say, there is room for words that are not last words.The Economist

Robert Nozick’s intellectual energy is a thing of wonder. In Invariances he ranges copiously over relativity theory and quantum theory, cosmology, modal logic, topology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, decision theory, economics, and even Soviet history—not to mention his strictly philosophical forays into the nature of truth, objectivity, necessity, consciousness, and ethics.—Colin McGinn, The New York Review of Books

Drawing on contemporary work in physics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, economic and political theory, as well as an extremely wide range of philosophical sources, Nozick takes up issues about truth, about the objectivity of science, about the metaphysics of necessity, about consciousness, and, finally, about the status of ethics. Again and again, he will begin with a problem, suggest a line of approach to it, and then follow that line in imaginative and often unanticipated ways until he has outlined the new possibilities he promised. The discussion is often dazzling and provocative… The ideas…are expressed with Nozick’s characteristic clarity and panache… [Invariances is] remarkable for its imagination and philosophical zest. We are fortunate to have so many rich and brilliant discussions of central philosophical issues.—Philip Kitcher, Ethics

It is a philosophical book in the truest sense of the word… [Robert Nozick] capitalizes on his impressive knowledge of twentieth-century developments in epistemology, in methodology and philosophy of science, and in science itself. And he confronts the uncertainties those developments have led us into head on without in the least being sentimental about it. This is not a book about chess, this is chess itself, drawing on the immense reservoir of games played and documented during the last hundred years… This book and each paragraph in it is the strongest antidote to the current spread of slides-thinking I have been confronted with in years. Which does not imply that I have gained much knowledge or wisdom by reading it. That is because even the illustrations and factual evidence presuppose too intimate an acquaintance with the scientific context and because it is not offering wisdom—it is offering an exercise in working with wisdom, which is something else entirely. Philosophy begins in wonder, according to Aristotle.—Jos Leys, Ethical Perspectives

Nozick’s new book…takes him away from politics and back to philosophy, his core field. In essence, he argues that the momentum of Western philosophy has been brought up short, not to say killed in its tracks, by advances in the hard and soft sciences, with ramifications he delineates carefully.—George Fetherling, The Vancouver Sun

An ambitious, stimulating effort to revitalize the notions of truth and objectivity in a way that takes account of contemporary physics and biology, Nozick’s latest book lays out an agenda at once bold and tentative: to propose ‘new and philosophically interesting’ theses, but to aim only at exploration, not at conclusive proof. The Harvard professor’s style is accessible; his approach is refreshingly nondogmatic.Publishers Weekly

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