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Socratic Puzzles Reprint Edition

4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674816541
ISBN-10: 0674816544
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Editorial Reviews


Socratic Puzzles is the work of a brilliant mind whose energy for abstract ratiocination in the service of structure hasn't mellowed as much as some thought it would. As ever, Nozick impresses and daunts readers able to follow him. (Carlin Romano Philadelphia Inquirer)

Nozick is a distinctive voice in contemporary philosophy: inventive, funny, and often contrarian in his beliefs and choice of topics. At its best his work is exhilarating. (Thomas Hurka Toronto Globe & Mail)

From the Back Cover

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, is also an example of 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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674816544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674816541
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nozick's important papers are all here, from the ones that made his reputation thirty years ago to some insightful pieces from the mid '90s. The range is broad, as anyone who's read much of his work would expect; long-time Nozick readers will also recognize the unfortunately flip note in a few papers. On balance, though, there's a lot worth reading in this book, most of it thought-provoking.
Nozick made his reputation in the '60s with some really spectacular papers in decision theory. Those papers (Coercion; Newcomb's Problem and Two Principles of Choice, and Moral Complications and Moral Structures) are all here, which is helpful since the originals can be hard to dig up--I needed the Newcomb paper for my senior thesis way back when and had to wait like a month before the library located it.
These papers are dense, but deeply rewarding. Newcomb's Problem, which introduced this puzzle, is a good introduction to the field, technically rigorous but readable, though I don't really agree with his answer. Coercion has some stuff about rights that prefigures the claims in Anarchy, State and Utopia. Moral Complications is an amazing paper, really rich but still intelligible. I don't buy everything he says, and I think Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel have both come closer to describing how moral thought really works, but anyone interested in moral philosophy should study this paper.
The pieces on Socrates, Quine and the theory of explanation focus on various areas of philosophical method and choice of subject matter. Most of his suggestions here seem right or at least plausible, though he says an awful lot about reductionism without actually saying whether he believes in it or not.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the "easier reads" of Robert Nozick's thinking and articulation of his thought processes. While there are fewer of them in the selections in this work, the reader should not be daunted by the occasional use of what appear to be mathematical or equation type explanatory graphics. If I were to suggest anything as an enticement to the sale or distribution of this work, it would be to offer a preview of the introduction. It first came out in 1997, and my first exposure to it, with his marvelous identification of "wordsmith intellectuals," was shortly thereafter. After moving and packing away into storage earlier collections, I missed being able to refer to this work; not for citations, but rather for revisiting the intellectual stimulation of such pieces as "Invisible Hand Explanations" and "Who Would Choose Socialism?" - Not to slight the piece which gives the collection its title "Socratic Puzzles."

While I would probably rank Nozick's earlier (1989) "The Examined Life," which he subtitled "Philosophical Meditations," as the best and easiest to read of his books (and would recommend its purchase along with "Socratic Puzzles"), this latter work is worth a standalone reading. For those who want to go still further I would recommend the even earlier (1981) "Philosophical Explanations," which is entirely textual, extensive, but accessible in its treatment of the study and understanding Of Philosophy.

Many readers who are drawn to this field and to find parts of Nozick's works to be a bit of a slog, but are intrigued in the main, might probably wish for a publisher to assemble a "Collected Works" of Robert Nozick. Until then, reading into each of the works mentioned will provide that reward.
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My knowledge of philosophy is somewhat limited and is probably best categorized as a passionate hobby for the past three to four years. Take that into consideration when reading my review of this book and my choice of two stars for a rating. I freely admit that this book is beyond my capacities in at least some topics.

This book is not for the idly interested philosophy reader. This is the only book by Nozick I have read. It would appear that Nozick loves equations and wants Philosophy to be as mathematical as possible. If you undertake to read this book then you will do well to be warned of the equations. A second warning to the non-technical, the issues Nozick writes about are not broad topics that can be approached by the average person. His topics are very specific and technical and as such require a good deal of preparation on the part of the reader in order to follow along. I also found it rare to see positive definitive conclusions on the topics he raises unless his conclusion is that there is not yet a conclusion and of that he is certain. You might then ask what the point of the book is if his typical conclusion is that there is no definitive conclusion? It seems to me that the point in most cases was to explore the topics and take a swing at possible solutions or find problems with existing proposals. A typical pattern in his writing is this, “suppose a valid theory existed for such and such, it doesn’t exist but that is okay, lets assume it does; now I’m going to propose something on top of that theory which doesn’t exist.” For an example of what I mean see page 119, top of the last paragraph.

I’m going to break up my thoughts based on how Nozick presents his papers, by number and title.
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