Robert Nozick (16 November 1938 – 23 January 2002) was an American philosopher. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University, and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his books Philosophical Explanations (1981), which included his counterfactual theory of knowledge, and Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), a libertarian answer to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971), in which Nozick also presented his own theory of utopia as one in which people can freely choose the rules of the society they enter into. His other work involved ethics, decision theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. His final work before his death, Invariances (2001), introduced his theory of evolutionary cosmology, by which he argues invariances, and hence objectivity itself, emerged through a theory of evolutionary cosmology across possible worlds.
Nozick, Robert (1938-2002), by Ellen Frankel Paul, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
Robert Nozick was a writer, a philosopher, and, at one time, a leading supporter of libertarian thought ... Rawls's most enduring challenge came from ... a younger philosopher with an engaging writing style who accomplished something extraordinary. Robert Nozick's book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia ... had the unpredictable effect of transforming libertarianism from a political philosophy that had been taken seriously by only a few academics into an obligatory topic of discussion among American philosophers and their students ... Prior to Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Nozick had published two papers in political philosophy ...
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.
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.
Nozick, a prominent Harvard philosopher who had become perhaps the most famous academic libertarian with the publication of his Anarchy, State and Utopia, had used rent control regulations to force his landlord to refund thousands of dollars in rent that Nozick had voluntarily agreed to pay. Most libertarians were aghast. But Waters' "Reflections on the Apostasy of Robert Nozick" presented a rather sophisticated "defense" of Nozick's action: he argued that the logic that heaps moral condemnation on Nozick leads ultimately to condemnation of any use of any government service or product, including the use of government roads.
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 ... Everyone on all sides of the political spectrum will benefit, under a principle of justice in intellectual transmission, from his spirited intellectual legacy in the service of liberty.
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' ...
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—a project that I and others were only too willing to take on.
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.
Twenty-eight years ago a Harvard philosophy professor named Robert Nozick did something unthinkable in polite intellectual society: he published a book defending libertarianism ... 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 ...
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.
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
It is surprising that intellectuals oppose capitalism so. Other groups of comparable socio‐economic status do not show the same degree of opposition in the same proportions. Statistically, then, intellectuals are an anomaly. Not all intellectuals are on the "left." ... The sociological generalization we have stated is intuitively compelling; something like it must be true ... We started with a puzzling phenomenon in need of an explanation. We have found, I think, an explanatory factor that (once stated) is so obvious that we must believe it explains some real phenomenon.
An 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
Julian Sanchez: It seems as though the ethical view you put forward in Invariances (2001), with its emphasis on evolution, is quite distinct ... Robert Nozick: Well, it's hard to make progress on philosophical topics. A lot of them seem to have been intractable. So one faces a choice between adding a wrinkle to a view you yourself (or someone else) have developed ... RN: ... Of my six books, I think that the three that are intellectually most exciting are Anarchy, State and Utopia, Philosophical Explanations, and Invariances. JS: And the one that is the very most exciting? RN: <laughs> It's a three-way tie.
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
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
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
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
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.