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Robert Nozick

Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights).

Robert Nozick (16 November 193823 January 2002) was an American libertarian philosopher and Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University.

QuotesEdit

  • When I was 15 years old, or 16, I carried around on the streets of Brooklyn a paperback copy of Plato's Republic, front cover facing outward. I had read only some of it and understood less, but I was excited by it and knew it was something wonderful.
    • The Examined Life (1989).
  • Whatever the practical origins of aesthetic discernment may have been, it has been used to create great works of art. When the very loftiest human creations are seen to derive from humble origins and functions, what needs revision is not our esteem for these creations but our notion of nobility.
    • The Nature of Rationality (1993), Ch. V : Instrumental Rationality and Its Limits; Rationality's Imagination, p. 181.
  • Our principles fix what our life stands for, our aims create the light our life is bathed in, and our rationality, both individual and coordinate, defines and symbolizes the distance we have come from mere animality. It is by these means that our lives come to more than what they instrumentally yield. And by meaning more, our lives yield more.
    • The Nature of Rationality (1993), Ch. V : Instrumental Rationality and Its Limits; Rationality's Imagination, p. 181.

Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)Edit

What persons may and may not do to one another limits what they may do through the apparatus of a state, or do to establish such an apparatus.
Is there really someone who, searching for a group of wise and sensitive persons to regulate him for his own good, would choose that group of people that constitute the membership of both houses of Congress?
Is there really one kind of life which is best for each of these people?
  • Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do. How much room do individual rights leave for the state?
    • Preface, p. ix.
  • Our main conclusions about the state are that a minimal state, limited, to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified, but any more extensive state will violate persons' rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minimal state is inspiring as well as right.
    • Preface, p. ix.
  • Some anarchists have claimed not merely that we would be better off without a state, but that any state necessarily violates people's moral rights and hence is intrinsically immoral. Our starting point then, though nonpolitical, is by intention far from nonmoral. Moral philosophy sets the background for, and boundaries of, political philosophy. What persons may and may not do to one another limits what they may do through the apparatus of a state, or do to establish such an apparatus.
    • Ch. 1 : Why State of Nature Theory?; Political Philosophy, p. 6.
  • Is there really someone who, searching for a group of wise and sensitive persons to regulate him for his own good, would choose that group of people that constitute the membership of both houses of Congress?
    • Ch. 2 : The State of Nature; Protective Associations, p. 14.
  • There is no social entity with a good that undergoes some sacrifice for its own good. There are only individual people, different individual people, with their own individual lives. Using one of these people for the benefit of others, uses him and benefits the others. Nothing more.
    • Ch. 3 : Moral Constraints and the State; Why Side Constraints?, p. 32.
  • 1. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to that holding.
    2. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in transfer, from someone else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding.
    3. No one is entitled to a holding except by (repeated) applications of 1 and 2.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, The Entitlement Theory, p. 151.
  • A distribution is just if it arises from another just distribution by legitimate means.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, The Entitlement Theory, p. 151.
  • Whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, The Entitlement Theory, p. 151.
  • Justice in holdings is historical; it depends upon what actually has happened. We shall return to this point later.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, The Entitlement Theory, p. 152.
  • Some people steal from others, or defraud them, or enslave them, seizing their product and preventing them from living as they choose, or forcibly exclude others from competing in exchanges. None of these are permissible modes of transition from one situation to another.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, The Entitlement Theory, p. 152.
  • Whoever makes something having bought or contracted for all other held resources used in the process (transferring some of his holdings for these cooperating factors), is entitled to it. The situation is not one of something’s getting made, and there being an open question of who is to get it. Things come into the world already attached to people having entitlements over them.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, Patterning, p. 160.
  • From each as they choose, to each as they are chosen.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, Patterning, p. 160.
  • Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone's labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities.
    • Ch. 7 : Distributive Justice, Section I, Redistribution and Property Rights, p. 169.
  • No state more extensive than the minimal state can be justified.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework, p. 297.
  • There will not be one kind of community existing and one kind of life led in utopia. Utopia will consist of utopias, of many different and divergent communities in which people lead different kinds of lives under different institutions. Some kinds of communities will be more attractive to most than others; communities will wax and wane. People will leave some for others or spend their whole lives in one. Utopia is a framework for utopias, a place where people are at liberty to join together voluntarily to pursue and attempt to realize their own vision of the good life in the ideal community but where no one can impose his own utopian vision upon others.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework, p. 311.
  • Utopia is a meta-utopia: the environment in which Utopian experiments may be tried out; the environment in which people are free to do their own thing; the environment which must, to a great extent, be realized first if more particular Utopian visions are to be realized stably.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework, p. 312.
  • Some communities will be abandoned, others will struggle along, others will split, others will flourish, gain members, and be duplicated elsewhere. Each community must win and hold the voluntary adherence of its members. No pattern is imposed on everyone, and the result will be one pattern if and only if everyone voluntarily chooses to live in accordance with that pattern of community.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; Design Devices and Filter Devices, p. 316.
  • You can't satisfy everybody; especially if there are those who will be dissatisfied unless not everybody is satisfied.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework as Utopian Common Ground, p. 320.
  • Though the framework is libertarian and laissez-faire,individual communities within it need not be, and perhaps no community within it will choose to be so. Thus, the characteristics of the framework need not pervade the individual communities. In this laissez-faire system it could turn out that though they are permitted, there are no actually functioning "capitalist" institutions; or that some communities have them and others don't or some communities have some of them, or what you will.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework as Utopian Common Ground, p. 320.
  • It goes without saying that any persons may attempt to unite kindred spirits, but, whatever their hopes and longings, none have the right to impose their vision of unity upon the rest.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; The Framework as Utopian Common Ground, p. 325.
  • In a free system any large, popular, revolutionary movement should be able to bring about its ends by such a voluntary process. As more and more people see how it works more and more will wish to participate in or support it. And so it will grow, without being necessary to force everyone or a majority or anyone into the pattern.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; Utopian Means and Ends, p. 327.
  • One persistent strand in utopian thinking, as we have often mentioned, is the feeling that there is some set of principles obvious enough to be accepted by all men of good will, precise enough to give unambiguous guidance in particular situations, clear enough so that all will realize its dictates. and complete enough to cover all problems which actually arise. Since I do not assume that there are such principles, I do not presume that the political realm will whither away. The messiness of the details of a political apparatus and the details of how it is to be controlled and limited do not fit easily into one's hopes for a sleek, simple utopian scheme.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; Utopian Means and Ends, p. 330.
  • Is not the minimal state, the framework for utopia, an inspiring vision?
    The minimal state treats us as inviolate individuals, who may not be used in certain ways by others as means or tools or instruments or resources; it treats us as persons having individual right with the dignity this constitutes. Treating us with respect by respecting our rights, it allows us, individually or with whom we please, to choose our life and to realize our ends and our conception of ourselves, insofar as we can, aided by the voluntary cooperation of other individuals possessing the same dignity. How dare any state or group of individuals do more. Or less.
    • Ch. 10 : A Framework for Utopia; Utopia and the Minimal State, p. 333.

Quotes about NozickEdit

  • Robert Nozick, the Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, always attacks his problems in a disconcertingly original way. … in The Examined Life, he took on nothing less than the meaning of life, a subject that academic philosophers tended to steer clear of — and still do, despite his best efforts.
    From Mr. Nozick you always expect fireworks, even if some of them go off in their box. His questions, hints, counterarguments and suggestions come so thick and fast that it is next to impossible to appreciate all of them. Start pondering a sentence and you will find yourself led away prematurely by a parenthetical question; think about the question and you will be dragged into a discursive footnote; from the bowels of the footnote, another parenthetical query will leap out at you. If you escape back to the main argument with your concentration intact (unlikely, after a while), the whole wearing business just starts over again. Yet it is worth the effort — certainly for regular readers of philosophy, and often for others.
  • No contemporary philosopher possesses a more imaginative mind, broader interests, or greater dialectical abilities than Robert Nozick.
  • His learning is enormous and interconnected … His ability to surround a subject, to anticipate objection, to see through weakness and pretense, to exact all the implications of a contention, to ask a huge number of relevant questions about a seemingly settled matter, to enlarge into full significance what has only been sketched by others, is amazing.
  • Nozick’s Theory, in spite of its apparent dedication to self-ownership, cannot escape the conclusion that women’s entitlement rights to those they produce must take priority of persons’ rights to themselves at birth.
    • Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family, (USA: Basic Books, 1989), p. 82.
  • Hayek and Nozick both think that talk of distributive justice is misleading, because it suggests the presence of a distributing person or mechanism; in a developed economy there is no such thing, and in a free society, the attempt to institute such a thing would destroy all freedom. Hayek, however, supports this view with an account of the computational impossibility of deciding what to produce and dis tribute in order to achieve justice, while Nozick is more concerned to emphasize that the state has no right to seize the resources of individuals in order to distribute them according to any principle whatever.
    • Introduction in Justice (1993) edited by Alan Ryan

External linksEdit

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