from the Writings of

Robert Nozick

Coercive PhilosophyExplanation versus Proof *1
The terminology of philosophical art is coercive: arguments are powerful and best when they are knockdown, arguments force you to a conclusion, if you believe the premisses you have to or must believe the conclusion, some arguments do not carry much punch, and so forth. A philosophical argument is an attempt to get someone to believe something, whether he wants to beleive it or not. A successful philosophical argument, a strong argument, forces someone to a belief. Philosophical argument, trying to get someone to believe something whether he wants to believe it or not, is not, I have held, a nice way to behave towards someone; also it does not fit the original motivation for studying or entering philosophy. That motivation is puzzlement, curiousity, a desire to understand, not a desire to produce uniformity of belief. Most people do not want to become thought-police. The philosophical goal of explanation rather than proof not only is morally better, it is more in accord with ones philosophical motivation.
Philosophical Pluralism
I see the situation as follows. There are various philosophical views, mutually incompatible, which cannot be dismissed or simply rejected. Philosophy's output is the basketful of these admissible views, all together. One delimiting strategy would be to modify and shave these views, capturing what is true in each, to make them compatible parts of one new view. This book puts forward its explanations in a very tentative spirit; not only do I not ask you to believe that they are correct, I do not think it important for me to believe them correct, either. Still I do believe, and hope you will find it so, that these proposed explanations are illuminating and worth considering, that they are worth surpassing; also that the process of seeking and elaborating explanations, being open to new possibilities, the new wonderings and wanderings, the free explanation, is itself a delight.
Philosophical Explanations, (from the Introduction) [Nozick81]

*1 Compare Russell, writing about philosophy as logic.
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