Nozick’s candor

Before we jump into Chapter 1 of “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”, we want to return to Nozick’s preface one last time. The preface not only summarizes the main conclusions and methods of his book; it also calls out the intellectual dishonesty of most philosophical work. According to Nozick, when philosophers consider the great questions of philosophy, many pretend that their writings are the absolute final word on their subjects. But in reality, philosophers know that their works are full of “bulges” or unanswered questions, so (in Nozick’s words) the creation of a philosophical essay or book often “feels like pushing and shoving things to fit into some fixed perimeter of specified shape.” Worse yet, the bulges are masked or the cause of the bulge is thrown far away so that no one will notice. Nozick then conjures up a photographic metaphor to explain this form of philosophical dishonesty: “Quickly, you find an angle from which everything appears to fit perfectly and take a snapshot, at a fast shutter speed before something else bulges out too noticeably.” After a trip to the darkroom for touching up: “All that remains is to publish the photograph as a representation of exactly how things are, and to note how nothing fits properly into any other shape.” Nozick, by contrast, promises not to hide the bulges or weaknesses of his work. What a refreshing dose of candor!

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