Robert Nozick

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The foremost libertarian philosopher, who gave up on it a few years later.


Nozick on Philosophy [More...]
Turns out to be very descriptive of his own work's failings, that of Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and other libertarians. More comfortable than a Procrustean bed, but just as awful.
The Turing Test: Who Can Successfully Explain Robert Nozick? [More...]
Brad DeLong provides a succinct explanation of the major reason why nobody should take Robert Nozick seriously. This is ridicule done right.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia (book) (13 links)
(1974) Robert Nozick has written the most academically important attempt at libertarian philosophy. Starting with the fantasy of Natural Rights, it is rife with fallacies, misdirection and unstated assumptions.
Begging the Question with Style: Anarchy, State and Utopia at Thirty Years [More...]
Barbara Fried's brilliant analysis of the rhetorical (propaganda) techniques used by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Starts with a list of substantive questions begged, moves on to some of his self-contradictions, and then addresses many rhetorical maneuvers.
Brian Barry on Robert Nozick [More...]
Excerpts from Brian Barry’s amusing review of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, from 1975. (Political Theory August 1975 3: 331-336) Can you say "spurious intellectual respectability"?
Coercion (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [More...]
Includes Robert Nozick's framework, which pretty clearly indicates that property is coercive. Peculiarly, Nozick's framework overlooks direct, forcible coercion such as compulsion, injury or imprisonment.
Does Nozick Have a Theory of Property Rights? [More...]
Barbara Fried points out numerous ways Robert Nozick abandons libertarian principles and resorts to utilitarianism in Anarchy, State and Utopia. Free download.
Existential Comics 259: A Dialogue on Freedom [More...]
An Existential Comics explanation of how Robert Nozick's criticism of Utilitarianism hoists him by his own petard. A good criticism of oppression of non-owners, but misses the fact that corporations are real-world immortal "freedom monsters". Both monsters are unrealistic in that they differ strongly from (are unequal to) rather equal humans. "Realistic" philosophy would concern itself with the rather equal humans.
Greedy Reductionism (2 links)
A philosophical crime of trying to explain too much with a single principle. Typical of almost all libertarianism.
Homesteading (John Quiggin) [More...]
"Nozick’s use of a term that specifically describes rights created by the US state simply emphasizes the point that property rights are always and everywhere social constructs. Your property rights are those that are accepted and enforced by the society to which you belong."
Huben on Nozick (2 links)
Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" can be quickly summarized as a game of hide-the-fallacy. After almost 40 years, it is still easy to identify new fallacies or describe the fallacies more obviously.
Initial Property Continues to Vex Libertarians [More...]
"Perhaps the most interesting thing about libertarian thought is that it has no way of coherently justifying the initial acquisition of property. How does something that was once unowned become owned without non-consensually destroying others’ liberty? It is impossible. This means that libertarian systems of thought literally cannot get off the ground. They are stuck at time zero of hypothetical history with no way forward."
A delightful, musical burlesque of philosophy that pits John Rawls against his arch-nemeses Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand. Vimeo rental. Highly recommended. View the preview and read the Wikipedia page for a synopsis.
Libertarianism and Pollution [More...]
Libertarian Matt Zwolinski points out that the libertarian theories of rights of Nozick, Rothbard, and Mack don't work for pollution problems. He also says "[Free-Market Environmentalism] can serve as a supplement to a theory of rights, and never as a substitute for one." He concludes that there is currently no good libertarian solution, using the euphemism "a fruitful subject for future research."
Libertarianism Without Foundations [More...]
Thomas Nagel savages Anarchy, State, and Utopia. "Nozick starts from the unargued premise that individuals have certain inviolable rights which may not be intentionally transgressed by other individuals or the state for any purpose." Nagel explains why that is begging the question.
Liberty Upsets Patterns (1 link)
A saying of Robert Nozick. Who happens never to define liberty. But property is a pattern, and real liberty would not observe it. Patterns of liberty are also upset when people have the liberty to politically organize. But this is really a tautology: patterns only exist because liberty is restrained.
Liberty, Desert and the Market: A Philosophical Study (book)
Rips Nozick a new one, based on dissertation under G. A. Cohen.
Nozick’s Libertarian Theory of Justice [More...]
Peter Vallentyne politely points out the glaring loopholes in Nozick's theory. Things Nozick is vague about, things he simply assumes, and things he leaves out.
Reading Nozick: Essays on Anarchy, State, and Utopia (book)
An anthology of essays about Anarchy, State, and Utopia.
Robert Nozick Agrees With Thomas Piketty [More...]
"As diehard a libertarian as Nozick was, even he found himself bothered by the prospect of "patrimonial capitalism" to borrow Piketty's phrase [....]" "Like all of his prior forays into the realm of philosophy, Mankiw has this one entirely wrong."
Robert Nozick: Property, Justice, and the Minimal State (book)
Summarizes and invents numerous philosophical refutations of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a much parrotted work. Libertarians are generally unaware of the flaws and incompleteness of their "best" philosophy.
The Liberty Scam [More...]
"Why even Robert Nozick, the philosophical father of libertarianism, gave up on the movement he inspired."
The Lockean Fable of Initial Acquisition (16 links)
Also known as the labor theory of property. John Locke tells a story (nothing more) that ignores the fact that current real-world ownership is based on past theft and conquest (expropriation) not initial acquisition (appropriation.) Initial acquisition without government is a myth. "Mixing of labor" is merely expenditure of effort: it does nothing to create property because property is a socially constructed institution.
The Nozickian case for Rawls’ difference principle [More...]
"There is a very strong Nozickian case to be made for Rawls’ difference principle. Because the reality of scarcity causes the use of resources to necessarily infringe upon the liberty of others, it makes sense to say (as Nozick does) that you should only be able to undertake such use if it does not worsen the position of others."
Yglesias 1: Robert Nozick Was A Smart Man -- Too Smart To Embrace The Doctrine Of Anarchy, State, and Utopia [More...]
The fact that these kind of “harcore” views do such a poor job of withstanding scrutiny that the author of their most academically influential defense backed away from them is something people ought to be aware of. See also part 2.
Yglesias 2: A Robert Nozick Followup Or; How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Quit Ideal Theory [More...]
[...] I think the reason his remarks on politics were so brief and his argument in favor of his favored position so threadbare is precisely because he didn’t think it was possible to draw many interesting policy conclusions from his philosophical position. See also part 1.


Nozick suggests that if everybody at a basketball game volunteered to pay Wilt Chamberlain a small amount of money, the end result would be a vastly unequal income distribution, but since everybody had donated ‘voluntarily,’ there would be no problem regarding the justness of the outcome. But while it is true that everybody at the basketball volunteered to donate their own money, it is not true that they agreed to anyone else donating money, and it is certainly not true that they all agreed to everyone collectively donating a fortune. The principle is actually based on a subtle switch from individually voluntary choices to collectively voluntary ones, one which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
Since many of the people who take a similar position [libertarianism] are narrow and rigid, and filled, paradoxically, with resentment at other freer ways of being, my now having natural responses which fit the theory puts me in some bad company.
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
It will be implausible to view improving an object as giving full ownership to it, if the stock of unowned objects that might be improved is limited. For an object’s coming under one person's ownership changes the situation of all others. Whereas previous they were at liberty (in Hohfeld’s sense) to use the object, they now no longer are.
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules (made radioactive, so I can check this) mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea, or have I foolishly dissipated my tomato juice?
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
I have long entertained a suspicion, with regard to the decisions of philosophers upon all subjects, and found in myself a greater inclination to dispute, than assent to their conclusions. There is one mistake, to which they seem liable, almost without exception; they confine too much their principles, and make no account of that vast variety, which nature has so much affected in all her operations. When a philosopher has once laid hold of a favourite principle, which perhaps accounts for many natural effects, he extends the same principle over the whole creation, and reduces to it every phænomenon, though by the most violent and absurd reasoning. Our own mind being narrow and contracted, we cannot extend our conception to the variety and extent of nature; but imagine, that she is as much bounded in her operations, as we are in our speculation.
David Hume, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", "The Sceptic" pg. 163.
The political philosophy presented in Anarchy, State, and Utopia ignored the importance to us of joint and official serious symbolic statement and expression of our social ties and concern and hence (I have written [in "The Zigzag of Politics"]) is inadequate.
Robert Nozick, "The Nature of Rationality", p. 32.
The problem is that this homesteading action is outrageously un-libertarian. It involves a single actor unilaterally deciding to eliminate the previously existing access every other person had to some piece of the world, doing so without the consent of those dispossessed of their access, and through the use of violence (i.e. if you try to access the object they now claim to own, they physically push you off or worse).
Matt Bruenig, "The Nozickian case for Rawls’ difference principle"