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Philosophical Explanations Paperback – April 16, 1983


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (April 16, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674664795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674664791
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Nozick is moved by a splendid passion...His arguments link his explanations to what he is rightly confident of...his vision of a persistent role for philosophy in common life. (Ian Hacking New Republic)

[This] remarkable new book...brings a reader into immediate and unmistakable contact with an uncommon mind. The clarity of [Nozick's] style mirrors the lucidity of his thought...This is a major book. (Robert Taylor Boston Globe)

An important book...[Nozick is] a philosopher who is answering the questions posed by such philosophers as Kierkegaard, Sartre, Marcel and Buber with the aid of tools produced by such very different philosophers as W. V. Quine, Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam...[He displays a] striking and imaginative originality. For he does nothing less than propose a new way of doing philosophy...Perhaps one good way for the serious general reader to attack this often difficult but always rewarding book would be to begin at the end. First read the fine last chapter on 'Philosophy and the Meaning of Life'...It should then be very clear why it is important for you, whoever you are, to go back and read the rest of this book. (Alasdair MacIntyre New York Times Book Review)

[Nozick is] a theorist with a style and method of his own, and ideas as bold as they are bright. (Maurice Cranston Washington Post Book World)

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 New York Review of Books)

Philosophical Explanations "will attract intelligent people of all backgrounds...Nozick is moved by a splendid passion...His arguments link his explanations to what he is rightly confident of his vision of a persistent role for philosophy in common life. (New Republic)

This "remarkable new book...brings a reader into immediate and unmistakable contact with an uncommon mind. The clarity of [Nozick's] style mirrors the lucidity of his thought...This is a major book. (Boston Globe)

It is important for you, whoever you are, to read...this book. (New York Times Book Review)

Nozick is "a theorist with a style and a method of his own, and ideas as bold as they are bright." (Washington Post Book World)

It is not surprising that Nozick has a following. He does not come at the reader with heavy solemnity. His prose style is insouciant, his manner whimsical, and he gives every indication of having lots of fun. (Fortune)

About the Author

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

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ideas can provoke, and even individuals who are absolutely determined to be objective and weigh each idea or opinion without getting emotionally involved usually at one time or another find themselves in heated debate. One can only speculate on the reasons why anger typically accompanies the exchange of ideas. One would think maybe that individuals intelligent enough to discuss sometimes very complex ideas would not permit themselves to get agitated. Another possibility, from a biological/evolutionary standpoint, is that anger is a kind of defense mechanism: that it reacts against new ideas as these disturb the cognitive equilibrium of the individual. Since ideas determine an individual's outlook and how he/she deals with reality, too rapid a change in the individual's conceptual structure might threaten the individual's survival.
Early in the introduction to this book, the author makes a strong and uncommon case against what he has termed 'coercive philosophy'. This, he says, is characterized by its terminology: arguments are "powerful", and best when they are "knockdown". Such arguments, if the premises are believed by your "opponent", force your opponent to the conclusion, which he/she must believe, lest they be labeled as "irrational", the latter they are told, and some of them believe, is the ultimate anathema. But if they do not, the "owner" of the argument is in trouble: he/she is faced with someone who is perfectly comfortable with the "irrational" label. What does the arguer do then?
Therefore, the author asks the reader to consider another approach to philosophy, and that approach is reflected in the title of the book. The role of philosophy is to explain, not to argue.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sutton on July 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I tend to agree with that great scientist Hans Eysenck when he said "all philosophers do is yak, yak, yak, but show them a fact and they fall on their face."
Nozick is different. He doesn't provide many facts, but he deals directly with the subjects we want philosophy to tackle, including: Why do we exist? What is free will? What is an ethical life and why should we lead it?
Of course, he doesn't provide any definite answers, but you get the feeling that Nozick has led you a little along the road of understanding. It may only be a few inches along a very long road, but it's a start.
I think the section on metaphysics is the most successful part of the book. The chapter "Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?" is literally awesome.
I can't pretend the book is an easy read, although Nozick is very clear compared with most philosophers. I shall read it again and I'll give myself a month to do it!
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I remember once in a seminary class the professor was trying to emphasise a philosophical point, and was grasping for the name of someone who had written an essay that concentrated on the 'wrong points', as this professor put it. He couldn't remember the name, but said instead, 'that upstart philosopher from Harvard'.
At that point, I knew he meant Robert Nozick. I don't necessarily agree that he is an upstart, but I can see why academics of certain complexions and backgrounds might. In his book `Anarchy, State, and Utopia', he challenges conventional thinking on many socio-political theories of the current culture -- liberalism, socialism, and conservatism. This book irritated many people, and while it has somewhat faded from view, still remains a text that calls for consideration.
Nozick's follow-up book, `Philosophical Explanations', is the continuation of Nozick's philosophy in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, and value. He continues his pattern of exploration (a particular word Nozick likes to use with regard to his method): `At no point is the person forced to accept anything. He moves along gently, exploring his own and the author's thoughts. He explores together with the author, moving only where he is ready to; then he stops. Perhaps, at a later time mulling it over or in a second reading, he will move further.'
This is indeed the manner I found this book most useful, in re-reading at different times to pick up on different aspects of the narrative and the theory.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joshua R. Warren on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Robert Nozick's Philosophical Explanations is an award winning voyage into the depths of the dark abyss of our personal psyche. An extensive yet enthralling read, Philosophical Explanations if applied correctly, can open doors your mind never thought possible. For those with ample years of philosophical direction or research, Nozick's work may not be eye-opening, but for someone such as myself (relatively new to the realm of philosophical understanding), the teachings can be invaluable. While many of his views perplexed me, nonetheless I managed to profit greatly from his abstract methods of logic and reasoning.
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