Professor of philosophy, author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia
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  • Robert Nozick

    Robert Nozick (16 November 1938 - 23 January 2002) was an American philosopher who was most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University, and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), a libertarian answer to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971). His other work involved decision theory and epistemology.

    Reference

    Robert Nozick (1938-2002), by Edward Feser, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Major sections: Life - Anarchy, State, and Utopia and Libertarianism - Self-Ownership, Individual Rights, and the Minimal State - Refuting the Anarchist - Distributive Justice - Utopia - Epistemology - Personal Identity - Conclusion
    "A thinker with wide-ranging interests, Robert Nozick was one of the two most important and influential political philosophers ... in the Anglo-American analytic tradition. His first and most celebrated book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), produced ... the revival of the discipline of social and political philosophy within the analytic school. ... His other significant contributions to analytic philosophy notwithstanding, Nozick’s defense of libertarianism remains his most notable intellectual mark on philosophical inquiry."
    Robert Nozick's Political Philosophy, by Eric Mack, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 22 Jun 2014
    Major sections: Nozick's Life and Times - Moral Rights and Side-Constraints - The Minimal State versus Individualist Anarchism - Justice in Holdings - Utopia - Bibliography
    "Robert Nozick (1938–2002) was a renowned American philosopher who first came to be widely known through his 1974 book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), which won the National Book Award for Philosophy and Religion in 1975. Pressing further the anti-consequentialist aspects of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, Nozick argued that respect for individual rights is the key standard for assessing state action and, hence, that the only legitimate state is a minimal state that restricts its activities to the protection of the rights of life, liberty, property, and contract."

    Images

    TheAdvocates.org - Robert Nozick
    200x213 JPEG, grayscale

    Born

    16 Nov 1938, in Brooklyn, New York City

    Died

    23 Jan 2002, in Cambridge, Massachusetts

    Associations

    Professor, Department of Philosophy, 1965-2002, Harvard University

    Web Pages

    Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: Robert Nozick - Libertarian
    Includes biography, photo and excerpt from interview with Julian Sanchez
    "Robert Nozick (1939-2002) is one of the most respected and honored philosophers in the world. ... Anarchy, State, and Utopia was a rigorous examination and defense of libertarianism. It was controversial, exciting, and -- most shockingly for a serious philosophical work -- a pleasure to read. And it is hard to overstate the book's importance to libertarianism."
    Freedom Fighters » Robert Nozick
    Quotation and links to selected online resources by and about Nozick

    Articles

    Life of Liberty: Robert Nozick, R.I.P., by Richard A. Epstein, National Review Online, 24 Jan 2002
    Memorial tribute, comparing Nozick to Hayek and discussing some of the arguments he made in Anarchy, State and Utopia
    "As teacher, friend, and colleague in no particular order, he was a restless intellectual capable of enlivening every discussion with a bewildering blitz of questions that always left you one step behind. ... Nozick was, as far as I know not trained as a lawyer ..., but his ceaseless curiosity and imagination allowed him to develop by intuition a theory of justice in holdings that followed closely on the legal approach to these problems."
    On Liberty & License, by H. Joachim Maitre, Reason, Dec 1976
    Discusses commentary by supposedly "conservative libertarians" on Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia and worries about "the amoralism of some of the libertarian movement"
    "With the publication in 1974 of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the debate on rights and justice has assumed a public dimension and intensity resembling the reaction to Ayn Rand's first raids into the territory of established political philosophy. ... The 'liberal' establishment is faced with Nozick's quest for the minimal state, and the querist shocks the egalitarian by arguing that everyone is entitled to everything gained by a just process. ... To Nozick's book, Newsweek delivered the compliment: 'at heart a shrewd defense of laissez-faire and a theoretical buttress for the growing libertarian movement' ..."
    On the Origins of the Modern Libertarian Legal Movement [PDF], by Roger Pilon, Chapman Law Review, 2013
    Historical survey of libertarian influences on constitutional and other areas of law, from the mid-1970s to recent decisions
    "Two books in particular, both by Harvard philosophers, animated our thinking: John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, which arrived in 1971 and was generally understood as an apology for the modern welfare state, and Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which appeared in 1974 as a critique of Rawls and, more fully, as a sophisticated defense of libertarianism and limited government. But Nozick had erected his argument on the assumption that people had rights, which meant that there was a good deal of more fundamental work to be done ..."
    Robert Nozick and the Value of Liberty, by Aaron Ross Powell, 21 Jun 2011
    Responds to Stephen Metcalf's essay "The Liberty Scam", published on Slate.com
    "Nozick argues that it's wrong for all of us to look in moral horror at Wilt Chamberlain’s earnings, band together into a government, and send in armed tax collectors because we think Wilt's money could be more valuably used somewhere other than Wilt's pockets. Nozick's parable is about the morality of politics while saying nothing about what Wilt ought to voluntarily do with his money. He might choose to spend it all on caviar and rare basketball cards ... Or he might use it to launch a new business, employing many of his fellow citizens at decent wages to teach his basketball skills to willing consumers."
    Robert Nozick Named University Professor, Harvard University Gazette, 1 Oct 1998
    Announcement of Nozick's university-wide professorship; includes summary of his academic career, the books he authored, biographical details, professional associations and comments from Harvard colleagues and others
    "[Harvard President Neil L.] Rudenstine said that not only has Nozick had an important influence on contemporary philosophy, but 'his ideas have made a real difference well beyond his discipline, and beyond the academy. Robert has one of the most versatile, piercing, and agile minds that I have ever encountered,' Rudenstine said. ... Nozick, who grew up in Brooklyn and attended public school there, came to philosophy via a paperback version of Plato's Republic, which he found intellectually thrilling."
    Robert Nozick, Philosopher of Liberty, by Roderick Long, The Freeman, Sep 2002
    Focuses mainly on Nozick's contributions in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, with brief reference to his later works and his death earlier in 2002
    "As a child in his native Brooklyn, so the tale goes, young Nozick had been in the habit of asking street-corner preachers and soapbox orators, concerning whatever point of view they had been confidently expounding, 'How do you know that?' One presumes that his question met with a chilly reception; if so, he would have been well prepared for the reaction to Anarchy, State, and Utopia ..., which was often greeted with incredulity and outrage."
    Szasz on the Liberal Tradition, by David Gordon, The Mises Review, Sep 2004
    Review of Szasz' book Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices, highlighting his criticisms of J.S. Mill, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard and Nozick
    "Szasz, pushing his single-mindedness to near absurdity, assails Nozick for citing favorably the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. He engaged, Szasz tells us 'in psychiatry's most loathsome practices, including lobotomy' (p. 181). But Nozick's reference to Frankl has nothing to do with coercive psychiatry. ... Quite the contrary, [Szasz] often misunderstands Nozick, or dismisses what he says without consideration. He claims that Nozick wrongly ignores the bearings of free will on responsibility ..."

    Writings

    Sexuality, 1989
    Chapter 7 of The Examined Life; discusses various aspects of sexual interactions: excitement, pleasure, experimentation, knowledge of your partner and yourself, orgasm and attitudes, from tender to aggressive
    "The most intense way we relate to another person is sexually. Nothing so concentrates the mind, Dr. Johnson noted, as the prospect of being hanged. Nothing, that is, except sexual arousal and excitement: rising tension, uncertainty about what will happen next, occasional reliefs, sudden surprises, dangers and risks, all in a sequence of heightened attention and tension that reaches toward resolution."
    Related Topic: Sexual Pleasure
    Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, Cato Policy Report, Jan 1998
    Posits that "wordsmith" (as opposed to "numbersmith") intellectuals often resent capitalism because the market society does not reward them as their schooling did
    "A capitalist society is peculiar in that it seems to announce that it is open and responsive only to talent, individual initiative, personal merit. ... Despite the created expectation, a capitalist society rewards people only insofar as they serve the market-expressed desires of others; it rewards in accordance with economic contribution, not in accordance with personal value."
    Related Topics: Capitalism, Free Market, Society

    Interviews

    Interview with Robert Nozick, by Robert Nozick, Julian Sanchez, 26 Jul 2001
    Topics discussed include: ethics, science and philosophy, Karl Popper and the scientific method, Ayn Rand and epistemology, consciousness, relativism and the academic left and Nozick himself
    "What I was really saying in The Examined Life was that I was no longer as hardcore a libertarian as I had been before. But the rumors of my deviation (or apostasy!) from libertarianism were much exaggerated. I think this book [Invariances] makes clear the extent to which I still am within the general framework of libertarianism, especially the ethics chapter and its section on the 'Core Principle of Ethics.'"

    Books Authored

    Anarchy, State and Utopia, 1974
    Partial contents: Why State-of-Nature Theory? - The State of Nature - Moral Constraints and the State - Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk - The State - Distributive Justice - Equality, Envy, Exploitation, Etc. - Demoktesis - A Framework for Utopia
    Related Topics: Anarchism, The State
    Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, 2001
    Contents: I: The Structure of the Objective World - Truth and Relativism - Invariance and Objectivity - Necessity and Contingency - II: The Human World as Part of the Objective World - The Realm of Consciousness - The Genealogy of Ethics
    Related Topic: Philosophy
    Philosophical Explanations, 1981
    Contents: Introduction - Metaphysics: The Identity of the Self - Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? - Epistemology: Knowledge and Skepticism - Value: Free Will - Foundations of Ethics - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
    Related Topic: Philosophy
    The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations, 1989
    Partial contents: Dying - Parents and Children - Creating - The Nature of God, The Nature of Faith - The Holiness of Everyday Life - Sexuality - Love's Bond - Emotions - Happiness - Focus - Being More Real - Selflessness - Stances - Value and Meaning
    Related Topic: Life

    Videos


    On Robert Nozick and Liberty, by Chris Freiman, 2010
    Lecture, with audience participation, on the political philosophy of Nozick
    Schools of Thought in Classical Liberalism, Part 5: Natural Rights, by Nigel Ashford, 9 May 2012
    Short video, with transcript; discusses the answers to the question "What is the proper role of government?" from the viewpoint of Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick
    "Robert Nozick also believes in natural rights. He believes that it's by pursuing rational self-interest you would not violate the natural rights of others. He assumes that rights exist. He examines ... the consequences of that. It doesn't depend on a particular view of human nature. So in this view, natural rights is a so-called deontological approach. ... Nozick says that ... a minimal state against force, theft, fraud, and the enforcement of contracts is justified. Anything beyond that role is illegitimate because it violates people's rights."
    Related Topics: Ayn Rand, Rights

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