What are Nozick’s moral side constraints based on?

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the USA. Here, I am reblogging part 13 of my in-depth review of Robert Nozick’s magnum opus “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” The post below covers the next-to-last section in Chapter 3 of Nozick’s classic work, and it launches a devastating critique of Nozick’s claims regarding the source of moral constraints. Can Nozick recover from this embarrassing intellectual fumble? I will conclude my review of Chapter 3 and then proceed into Chapter 4 in my next two posts.

prior probability

In our previous post, we reviewed subsections five, six, and seven of Chapter 3 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU). Here, we will review the next-to-last subsection of this long chapter. In short, after building a strong case in favor of universal moral side constraints in those middle subsections, Nozick then poses afoundational or higher-order question in the eighth subsection (pp. 48-51): What are these side constraints themselves based on? To summarize Nozick’s answer, he first identifies several traits shared by (all or most?) individuals–traits such as rationality, free will, and moral agency–and then argues that, combined, these traits “add up to something whose significance is clear: a being able to formulate long-term plans for its life” (p. 49). Nozick thus conjectures that a person’s “ability to form a picture of one’s whole life (or at least significant chunks of it) and to act in terms of some overall…

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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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