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Books In Brief

Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

By Erik Beach

Illness has always been an important bedfellow to reflection and consideration of new directions. Some works of art would be unimaginable without it—what kind of output could we expect from a vigorous, healthy Proust? Pellegrino University Professor Robert Nozick’s new book Invariances is an example of the type of influence illness can have on thought. The book attempts to incorporate twentieth century scientific advances (such as quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity) into philosphical questions that have puzzled humanity since the time of Socrates. While this is not an entirely original idea, Nozick draws together many of the ways in which science can affect concepts such as truth, objectivity, necessity, consciousness and ethics in a complete and thorough manner.

Although best known for his 1974 defense of libertarianism and the minimal state in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Nozick currently appears to be exploring new directions, which may have been inspired by his recent battle against cancer. Three years ago, I was enrolled in his social philosophy class, only to have it cancelled part way through the semester due to his illness. This year, Nozick is opting for more nontraditional classes, co-teaching “Philosophy and History: The Russian Revolution” with Assistant Professor of History Eric Lohr and “Philosophy and Literature: Dostoevsky” with Reisinger Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures William Mills Todd III. Nozick begins his acknowledgments in Invariances by thanking three of his doctors. He also alludes to a new manner of thinking, stating that this book is supposed to pose new questions for further thought, not to conclusively prove an argument. This attitude is a breath of fresh air for philosophy; one can only hope that the field will take up this challenge and further engage the ideas in Invariances.

Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World

By Robert Nozick

Harvard University Press; 301pp., $35

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