Nozick’s open questions

I am reblogging part 14 of my in-depth review of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” The post below concludes my review of Chapter 3 of Nozick’s magnum opus with the following series of questions:

  1. Locke versus Hobbes. Why assume a Lockean state of nature in the first place?
  2. Enforcement of promises in the state of nature. How are promises between the members of a mutual protection group enforced? Indeed, how can there be private protection markets at all in the absence of pro-market institutions such as property law and contract law?
  3. Scope of the non-aggression principle. What are the contents of Nozick’s side constraints? If the contents of such side constraints consist of simple rules such as “do not harm others” or “do not commit any acts of aggression against others,” how do we define the concepts of “harm” or “aggression”?
  4. Scope of the self-defense exception. What exceptions should we (must we?) carve out from these side constraints? In particular, if the only justified exception is self-defense, what is the scope of this exception?
  5. Individuals versus families. Why do “individuals” matter more to Nozick than families, clans, villages, or other such organic collective entities?
  6. Last question. What is the ultimate source of Nozick’s moral side constraints?

prior probability

Nozick ends Chapter 3 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia by drawing up a tantalizing road map of the rest of his philosophical project (p. 53, emphasis in original):

“The remainder of Part I … attempts to justify the minimal state. In Part II, we argue that no state more powerful or extensive than the minimal state is legitimate or justifiable …”

As a result, Part I of the book (Chapters 1 to 6) corresponds to a world of stateless anarchy–a world of private protection rackets with each one dominant on its own turf–and the remainder of Part I (Chapters 4, 5, and 6) will explain how, in Nozick’s own words (p. 52), “the transition from [private protection rackets] to a minimal state must morally occur.” Next, Part II of ASU (Chapters 7, 8, and 9), which corresponds to the world of the classical liberal nightwatchman state, will argue that such…

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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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