Freedom Circle logo
Freedom Circle

Where Can You Find Freedom Today?

Professor of philosophy, author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia
See also:
  • FreedomPedia
  • Robert Nozick

    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.

    Images - Robert Nozick
    200x213 JPEG, grayscale


    16 Nov 1938, in Brooklyn, New York City


    23 Jan 2002, in Cambridge, Massachusetts


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

    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


    How We Started "Liberty", by R. W. Bradford, Liberty, Sep 1992
    Reflections on the fifth anniversary of publishing Liberty
    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.
    Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections, by Roderick T. Long, 6 Aug 2004
    Transcript of informal talk given at the 2004 Mises University. First makes the case for anarchism and then responds to objections others have raised against it
    [O]ne last consideration ... is a question that originally was raised by Robert Nozick and has since been pushed farther by Tyler Cowen. Nozick said: Suppose you have anarchy. One of three things will happen. Either the agencies will fight—and he gives two different scenarios of what will happen if they fight. But I've already talked about what happens if they fight, so I'll talk about the third option. What if they don't fight? Then he says, if instead they agree to these mutual arbitration contracts and so forth, then basically this whole thing just turns into a government.
    Life of Liberty: Robert Nozick, R.I.P., by Richard 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 ... 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. 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 ... 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—a project that I and others were only too willing to take on.
    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 the previous day
    Nozick is, justifiably, a hero of libertarianism (and liberty) ... [He] 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 [else]. Nozick's parable is about the morality of politics while saying nothing about what Wilt ought to voluntarily do with his money ... The difference between Nozick's vision and Metcalf's is that Nozick embraces that wonderful chaos, provided it happens within a framework of respected rights.
    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 T. Long, The Freeman, Sep 2002
    Focuses mainly on Nozick's contributions in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (page references are to 1974 edition), with brief reference to his later works and his death earlier in 2002
    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 ...
    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 ...


    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? [PDF], 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) ... 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.

    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
    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
    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


    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

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert Nozick" as of 4 Apr 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.