Nozick’s strong case for moral side constraints

I am reblogging part 12 of my extended review of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” The post below covers sections five, six, and seven of Chapter 3 of Nozick’s magnum opus, and it is here where Nozick starts to shine. Below is an excerpt from part 12 of my review:

“But Nozick’s best argument … in favor of the universality of moral constraints appears in the seventh subsection of Ch. 3 (pp. 45-47), where Nozick imagines the possibility of an alien race of superbeings who ‘stand to us as it is usually thought we do to animals’ (p. 45, emphasis in original). According to Nozick, even if humans were somehow morally superior to animals, moral side constraints should apply to human-animal interactions as they do to human-human interactions, for if there were such an alien race of superbeings …, and if they were to ever come into contact with us, wouldn’t we want them to follow the side-constraint view of morality in their dealings with us?”

prior probability

Since the Thanksgiving break, we have been rereading and reviewing Robert Nozick’s classic work of political philosophy Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU), one of our favorite academic books of all time. Thus far, we have posted our reviews of the Preface, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and the first four subsections of Chapter 3. Here, we will review the next three subsections of Chapter 3–subsections five, six, and seven on pp. 35-47 of ASU. Although we have previously pointed out many flaws and problems with Nozick’s reasoning, Nozick totally redeems himself here. In summary, these three subsections not only contain many memorable examples andintriguing thought experiments, such as a “utility monster” (p. 41), an “experience machine” (p. 42), and a “transformation machine” (p. 44); together, these subsections contain a highly-original and thought-provoking extended discussion on our moral duties towards non-human animals and on the moral duties that an alien race of…

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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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