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Robert Nozick

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University of Alberta
Mike Lockhart

Political Philosophy Distributive Justice  Who should get what in society?  What distribution of goods is fair? Many questions dealing with just society deals with “who has what?” Two examples: 1. 2200 people in edmonton = homless, about 250 children. Unjust? 2. 1% American population very rich. Other 99% makes less than $500K/annually (wall street journal, oct. 2011) a. 99% includes the half million/yr income Many people view this as unjust  a just society wouldn’t have this  wealth = more evenly distributed Just or Unjust?  But why this this way? Why think it’s unjust that 1% of society makes $500K+ a year? o Most people have no reasons for view and just repeat it by saying “it’s wrong! It’s unjust!” o Feeling something is wrong, but don’t have much evidence for why they feel this way  Some think it’s just! o Whether think just/unjust, there must be assumptions going into it  Need evidence/theory to account for views o Otherwise, just opinion!! (like opinion on pizza toppings) o And if just opinion, no reason to talk about it seriously o Want more than have opinion, want to discuss why opinion = correct; need evidence/theory to support/reject our opinions Libertarianism: Overview  Nozick’s “Anarcchy, State, and Utopia” (1974) o w/e view is on justice, need to address Robert Nozick  Place strong emphasis on individual rights (esp. rights that should not be violated), esp. property rights (ex: ownership of one’s own body, etc.) o argue that just state = minimal state  in some cases, play minimal role in our lives… Important, but minimal o good gov’t leaves almost everything to free market o gov’t cant tax you to help other people; should be voluntary charity of individuals  View is entailed by non-controversial premises Nozick aims to take reader step-by-step to show that we accept these premises like he does And once acceptance is reached, what gov’t can/cannot be just follows naturally Background  Nozick: It’s wrong to see justice as a matter of ‘distribution’ o Wrong to think these things aren’t already owned o Not theory of pure distribution (because someone already owns it!)  What really happens is redistribution o Need to acknowledge how we can be justified in taking something from some people and giving it to other people Not just Instruments for other people’s end  Not play things o View similar to Kant  Coercive redistribution treats us as means, not ends  “society must respect our rights” reflect Kantian principle that individuals are ends and not merely means o Humans can certainly be used to help others, but as long as it’s consensual  Most important right = right to control ourselves o Right to liberty includes self-ownership o Starts with the right to control our own bodies = fundamental to everything else An Argument for Absolute Property Rights  Should be treated as ends in ourselves, not merely as means o But can consent to helping someone reach their goal, as long as it’s also our goal, etc.  Autonomy + dignity can be expressed as property right (right to self-ownership) o If own self = I own my talents o If I own self + talents = also own anything I produce  Except if produce things using other’s property = need have agreement in place o If take property from me (ex: I own wood and I carve a beaver out of it), esp. by force/coercion (without consent!!) = being used as means for someone else’s ends Example  You + brother live on isolated acreage o You’re diligent, raise beautiful crops, and have plenty of produce o Your brother smokes a lot of pot + lies in bed watching soap operas  If state steps in and distributes some of your crops and hands it to your brother = violation of your autonomy/ self-ownership o Because YOU have produced the crops with your own property (your talents/land) Justice v. Morality  Nozick distinguishes justice from morality  People tend to smush together these two things, which are meant to be kept quite separate o When people say “that’s not just!”, they most often mean “that’s not moral” o Be care not to confuse the two  Justice – how to go legitimately go about acquiring stuff, and the role the state plays in acquisition  Morality – how we should be treating others  we should all be moral (maybe that includes helping deadbeat brother either by giving food, or withholding food) o not job of government to force us to be moral people/ not their role to police us whether we lie or not, etc. o morality isn’t relationship b/w us + gov’t  relationship we have with each other  unless it has something to do with acquiring goods (fraud, theft)  ex: if contract between you + carpenter and he lied about how good he is  THEN gov’t can step in Given this distinction… Nozick says it’s hard to justify any state at all So long as people freely exchange goods they have legitimately acquired  outcome of exchange = just “whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just” – Nozick Why would any rational person let state redistribute things that one has acquired legitimately? Nozick’s Theory of Justice in Holdings  going to refer to rules, without rules being given  shows how we can legitimately come to own something, and how things we own can be legitimately transferred  formal account: sketching principles we need, without giving them content o Principle of Justice in Acquisition  need set of rules where we can acquire something justly o Principle of Justice in Transfer  Defines very clearly how we can transfer goods in just way  Primarily by exchanging goods/services o Principle of Rectification of past injustice  Need these three principles in order for just society Justice Justice about legitimate
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