ROBERT NOZICK Distributive Justice. The term “distributive justice” is not a neutral one. Hearing the term. “distribution,” most people presume that some thing or. distributive justice; in the next chapter we shall take up diverse other claims. The term “distributive justice” is not a neutral one. Hearing the term “distribution,”. Entitlement theory is a theory of distributive justice and private property created by Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The theory is Nozick’s.

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Robert Nozick — was a renowned American philosopher who first came to be widely known through his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia[ 1 ] which justtice the National Book Award for Philosophy and Religion in Despite his highly acclaimed work in many other fields of philosophy, Nozick remained best known for ujstice libertarian doctrine advanced in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Robert Nozick was born in Brooklyn in to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. He earned an undergraduate Philosophy degree from Columbia University in and a Ph. He taught for a couple of years at Princeton, Harvard, and Rockefeller Universities before moving permanently to Harvard in He became widely known through his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopiawhich shocked the philosophical world with its robust and sophisticated defense of the minimal state—the state that restricts its activities to the protection of individual rights of life, liberty, property, and contract and eschews the use of state power to redistribute income, to make people moral, or to protect people from harming themselves.

Nozick went on to publish important works that ranged over metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, and axiology— Philosophical ExplanationsThe Examined LifeThe Nature of RationalitySocratic Puzzlesand Invariances Robert Nozick died in from stomach cancer for which he was first treated in As an undergraduate student at Columbia and at least in his early days as a graduate student at Princeton, Nozick endorsed socialism.

At Columbia, he was a founder of what was to become the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. The major force in his conversion to libertarian views was his conversations at Princeton with his fellow philosophy graduate student, Bruce Goldberg. There is, however, an intriguing lacuna in this story. Hayek and Milton Friedman—were not at all friends of natural rights theory.

So, we have no account of why the libertarianism that Nozick himself adopted came in the form of natural rights theory and an associated doctrine of acquired roberh rights. This account distrigutive the political philosophy of Robert Nozick is fundamentally an account of the rights-oriented libertarian doctrine that Nozick presents in Anarchy, State, jkstice Utopia.

That doctrine is the Nozickean doctrine. SanchezOther Internet Resources. According to that chapter, there are a number of layers of ethics. The first of these is the ethics of respect which consists of a set of negative rights. This layer and only this layer may be made mandatory in any society. There are four main topics that most deserve discussion with respect to Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

These moral rights are understood as state of nature rights. That is, they are rights that precede and provide a basis for assessing and constraining not only the actions of individuals and groups but also the conduct of political and legal institutions.


These rights also precede any social contract; they morally constrain distributiev conduct of individuals, groups, and institutions even justive the absence of distributivee social contract. Moreover, to possess such a right is not merely to be in some condition the promotion or maintenance of which is socially expedient.

Part of the message of that opening proclamation is that there are certain things that may not be done to individuals even if, by some standard, they are socially optimizing. The rights that individuals have are moral bulwarks against behavior that promotes even the most mozick apparently radiant—social end. In addition, these state of nature moral rights are taken to be negative.

They specify types of conduct that may not be done to individuals rather than types of conduct that must be done for people. Finally, since these rights are not granted by institutions, created by any contractual process, or accorded to individuals for the sake of advancing some optimal social outcome, if they have any foundation, that foundation must consist in some morally impressive fact about the nature of individuals qua individuals.

Entitlement theory – Wikipedia

Some morally impressive fact about the nature of individuals—e. We shall see that Nozick advances a claim of this sort in his account of why agents should abide by moral side-constraints in their conduct toward others. Recourse to the familiar distinction between claim-rights and liberty-rights will enable us to be somewhat more precise about the state of nature rights that Nozick ascribes nozifk each individual.

Liberty-rights are absences of obligations. You have a liberty-right to scratch your nose as long as you have no obligation not to. Claim-rights are moral and enforceable claims against others to their acting or not acting in certain ways.

You have a claim-right against others not to be interfered with in the scratching of your nose if and only if others have justcie enforceable obligation not to interfere with you in this way. Standardly, when we speak distributiev rights we are speaking of composites of liberty-rights and claim-rights.


For instance, standardly, your right to scratch your nose consists in your having no obligation not to do so and others having enforceable obligations not to interfere with your doing so. Your moral liberty to scratch your nose is morally protected by your enforceable claim against others that they not interfere with your doing so. When Nozick asserts that individuals possess pre-political, pre-contractual moral rights against certain things being done to them—even for the sake of ends that are or purport to be socially optimal—he is most obviously ascribing claim-rights to individuals correlative to which are pre-political and pre-contractual moral obligations of each agent not to do certain things to other individuals.

It is a commonplace to say that in ASU Nozick provides no foundation for his affirmation of such Lockean natural rights Nagel Nevertheless, Nozick does have important things to say about the underpinning of these rights and about their deontic character and their stringency. Indeed, it is striking that, when Nozick seeks to motivate his opening affirmation of rights, he starts with the same understanding and critique of utilitarianism that Rawls offers in A Theory of Justice when Rawls begins to motivate his contractarian doctrine.

What separates Nozick from Rawls at this very basic level is a difference in their construal of the implications of this common critique. Nozick may, in this way, offer as much of a foundation for adopting his natural rights stance as Rawls offers in A Theory of Justice for adopting his contractarian stance.

As is well known, Rawls starts by ascribing to the utilitarian the claim that the rationality of a certain principle of social choice can be inferred from the rationality of a certain principle of individual choice. The principle of individual choice is that, at least if no other party is affected, it is rational for an individual to incur costs for herself or to forego benefits for herself if doing so will spare her greater costs or provide her with greater benefits.

According to Rawls, the utilitarian holds that by parity of reasoning it is rational for a member of society to incur costs for herself or to forego benefits for herself if doing so will spare any member of society greater costs or provide any member of society with greater benefits. This is the purported rational principle of social choice. Thus, we get to the utilitarian conclusion that each agent as a member of society has reason to maximize the aggregate social good even at the expense of the individual good of herself or others.

As is also well-known, Rawls rejects this reasoning on the grounds that it does not take seriously the separateness and distinctness of persons. Because of this, one cannot proceed from its being worthwhile for a given person to incur costs for herself in order to spare herself greater costs to its being worthwhile for a given person as a member of society to incur costs for herself in order to spare any member of society greater costs.

According to Rawls, only if we conflate individuals—only if we mistakenly conceive of them as parts of a single person-like being, will the utilitarian principle of social choice be on a par with the principle of individual choice Rawls This summation goes well beyond the dismissal of the utilitarian regulative principle. For it strongly suggests a criterion for identifying the correct regulative principle or set of principles for the governance of social interaction. Such regulative principles must differ significantly from the utilitarian principle by being responsive to or reflective of the plurality of distinct persons with separate systems of ends.

We should note here that what is crucial is not the bare normatively neutral fact that individuals have separate systems of ends but, rather that individuals rationally seek to promote their own ends. Rawls then offers his crucial contractarian construal of how regulative principles qualify as being responsive to or reflective of the plurality of persons.

According to Rawls, they so qualify by being principles that all individuals concerned with the promotion of their own systems of ends would agree to under circumstances suitable for such agreement. It is striking that Nozick proceeds through a highly similar critical treatment of utilitarianism when he asks why persons may not be violated for the greater social good.

Individually, we each sometimes choose to undergo some pain or sacrifice for a greater benefit or to avoid a greater harm… In each case, some cost is borne for the sake of the greater overall good. Why not, similarly, hold that some persons have to bear some costs that benefit other persons more, for the sake of the overall social good?

But there is no social entity with a good that undergoes some sacrifice for its own good.

There are only individual people, different individual people, with their own individual lives. Using one of these people for the benefit of others, uses him and benefits the others.

What happens is that something is done to him for the sake of others.

Talk of an overall social good covers this up. Here Nozick makes things too easy for himself by ascribing to the utilitarian a belief in a social entity—as Rawls makes things too easy justicw himself by saying that the utilitarian argument depends on fusing or conflating persons.

For the utilitarian may simply hold that the best explanation for the rationality of a distrobutive person incurring some cost for herself in order to avoid some greater cost for herself is the unrestricted rationality of minimizing net costs or maximizing net benefits.

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According to this utilitarian, we do not have to move from the principle of individual choice to the principle of social choice. For, we start with the unrestricted rationality of minimizing costs or maximizing benefits ; and the principle of individual choice is simply the application of that principle of nozlck choice to the special case in which there is only one agent who is also the one ronert of benefits and costs.

To counter the contention that, at the outset, practical rationality calls for the minimization of net costs or the maximization of net benefitsRawls and Nozick need to hold that what makes it practically rational for a given individual to incur some cost to herself or forego some benefit for herself is the avoidance of some greater cost to herself or the attainment of some greater benefit distgibutive herself.

Robert Nozick’s Political Philosophy

They need to hold that at least absent further argument the rational balancing of costs incurred or benefits foregone and costs avoided or benefits attained must take place within lives and not across lives. There is no justified sacrifice of some of us for others. Note, however, that this last sentence is ambiguous. It may mean simply that there is no moral balancing across individuals that requires individuals to sacrifice for others or that justifies others in imposing such sacrifices.

It is clear that Nozick intends to assert this further claim even though he does not explicitly recognize that it is a further and distinct proposition. We come to the affirmation of those side-constraints when we sufficiently respect and take account of the separateness of persons. The fact of our separate existences—as Nozick parses that fact—is the morally impressive fact about the nature of individuals that provides us with reason to be circumspect in our conduct toward one another.

We respect or honor others as agents with rational ends of their own not by promoting their ends as we do our own but, rather, by not sacrificing them to our ends.

Kustice correct regulative principles for social interaction must sufficiently respect and take account of the plurality of distinct persons with separate systems of ends, those regulative principles must not treat persons as means for the attainment of any putatively choice-worthy social outcome. Regulative principles that endorse the use of persons for the sake of purportedly choice-worthy social outcomes—e. They share the failure of the dostributive principle to sufficiently respect and take account of the plurality of distinct persons with separate systems of ends.

Thus, Nozick contends, correct regulative principles must take the form of moral side constraints upon what may be done to individuals even for the sake of really valuable, choice-worthy social outcomes. Nozick follows suit in appropriating this Kantian language see Cohen But, contrary to Rawls, Nozick maintains that the endorsement of the imposition of sacrifices on individuals for the sake of any non-trivial conception of the social good—even, e. So, Nozick offers very much the same type of argument sistributive the existence of some correct regulative principle for social interaction as Rawls does in A Theory of Justice.

The difference is that Nozick does not hold that the mark of principles being responsive to or reflective of the fact of our separate existences is that they would be agreed to by everyone under suitable agreement circumstances.

Rather, he supposes that we can identify types of treatment of persons noziick not sufficiently respecting and taking account of the rationality of individuals pursuing of jusgice own good without having to appeal to any actual or hypothetical agreement. In particular, the imposition of sacrifices upon individuals does not sufficiently take account of their being agents who rationally pursue their own systems of ends. For Nozick, a paradigmatic natural moral right is the right not to be subjected to unprovoked killing.

Correlative to this right is the moral side constraint to which all individuals are naturally subject not to engage in the unprovoked killing of others. Although it may in some sense be less bad for B to be killed than for XYand Z to be killed, A remains bound not to kill B.

For Nozick, rights express the moral inviolability of distrobutive and B would not be morally inviolable—nor would any of us be—were B open to use by A even for the purpose of distribytive the violation of the rights of XYand Z. Not even the minimization of the violation juustice the right against being killed can justify the violation of that right.

According to Nozick, our core reason for abstaining from murder is not that abstention advances the goal of minimizing nozico. Indeed, if that were our reason to jhstice murder, A should not eschew murdering B if that is the only way that he can prevent W from murdering XYand Z. It is often thought that there is something paradoxical about deontological propositions like the assertion that everyone is bound to abstain from the unprovoked killing of others.