Friday, November 15, 2013

Book note: Robert Nozick again!

Well, in the last couple of weeks I have been returning to Robert Nozick's writings. The reason is that I had to check something in his book "The Examined Life" and when I browsed through the book I realized how much I liked it. That in turn led me to look for another of his books in my bookshelf "The Nature of Rationality" and to order his last book "Invariances -- the structure of the objective world".

These are some ambitious titles! After spending some hours with this books I am again captivated and delighted by his way of writing (even though I already knew it). His books are wonderful to read. The writings are vibrant and crisp. It feels more like listening to someone who really know what they are talking about than reading a text.

I am trying to figure out what it is that intrigues me about the texts. First of all, I like the almost ridiculous ambition of Nozick's projects. He is trying to explain rationality, life, nature, and the real world. This is of course what philosophy is about. The opening sentence in "Invariances" is "Philosophy begins in wonder."

I also like that he is not desperately trying to "win" some kind intellectual war and to have the final word. He writes that the "method" should be to explore and to find what is "plausible, illuminating, intellectually interesting, and supported by reason" and that it is not about "proofs". He uses this phrase frequently to make sure the reader do not forget what the measure of success is.

I also like that Nozick is dealing with the basic questions when it comes to everyday life, for instance, he comes back all the time to the simple question, what is "reason" and how do we know what is "reasonable" and is there a form of rationality that is natural and what would that mean. To me, these question are directly relevant for my own research on design and judgment. Reason and rationality are related to judgment. Rationality is a cornerstone in design arguments. But what kind of rationality? Actually, at the end of "The Nature of Rationality" he engages in a discussion about imagination and what it means that rationality is not only about alternative solutions but about imagining new alternatives. It is possible to read this short section as if it is about design.

Anyway, highly stimulating readings.

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