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.


    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
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    16 Nov 1938, in Brooklyn, New York City


    23 Jan 2002, in Cambridge, Massachusetts


    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."


    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."
    Robert Nozick Named University Professor, The 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."
    NewRobert 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."


    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 Online 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


    Interview with Robert Nozick, by 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: The State, Anarchism
    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

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