Nozick’s initial defense of moral side constraints

I am reblogging part 10 (see below) of my in-depth analysis of the ideas in Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” Here, we review the third section of Chapter 3 of the book, where Nozick defends his “side constraint” view of morality, but as I explain below, I am still somewhat skeptical of Nozick’s underlying premise that “individuals have rights.” Why? Because Nozick has yet to elaborate what these rights are (beyond the duty not to harm or injure others) or where such rights come from.

prior probability

In the second subsection of Chapter 3, which we reviewed in our previous post, we saw two possible ways of operationalizing Nozick’s moral premise that individuals have rights. Either we could make it our overall goal to minimize the violation of such rights or we could treat the non-violation of our rights as a moral duty or “side constraint” upon our actions. Next, in the third subsection of Chapter 3 (pp. 30-33), Nozick will consider one of the most fundamental questions of moral philosophy: whether we should choose the end state, goal-directed view of morality or the side constraint view. Specifically, why should we treat the non-violation of rights as a side constraint and not as a goal or end state? In three words, Nozick prefers the side constraint view because “Individuals are inviolable” (p. 31). As Nozick notes (pp. 30-31), “Side constraints upon action reflect the underlying…

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About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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