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John Dunn

2 October 1980
Natural Rights Theories 
by Richard Tuck.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £10.50, December 1979, 0 521 22512 4
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Natural Law and Natural Rights 
by John Finnis.
Oxford, 425 pp., £15, February 1980, 0 19 876110 4
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A Discourse on Property 
by James Tully.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £10.50, July 1980, 0 521 22830 1
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... RobertNozick begins his clever and implausible study Anarchy, State and Utopia with a confident pronouncement: ‘Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating ...

What’s best

Ian Hacking

27 January 1994
The Nature of Rationality 
by Robert Nozick.
Princeton, 226 pp., £19.95, August 1993, 0 691 07424 0
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... RobertNozick has a unique place in the annals of rational choice theory: he refuted it. Or so say I in my role as the last of the true Popperians. That was back in 1969. But now the mature philosopher is out to ...


Jeremy Waldron: Equality of Opportunity

19 September 2002
Against Equality of Opportunity 
by Matt Cavanagh.
Oxford, 223 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 924343 3
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... In 1974 RobertNozick shattered the political complacency of the philosophical establishment when he published Anarchy, State and Utopia, a book arguing that justice had nothing to do with equality. Justice is about ...

Creative Accounting

David Runciman: Money and the Arts

4 June 1998
Artist Unknown: An Alternative History of the Arts Council 
by Richard Witts.
Little, Brown, 593 pp., £22.50, March 1998, 0 316 87820 0
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In Praise of Commercial Culture 
by Tyler Cowen.
Harvard, 278 pp., £18.50, June 1998, 0 674 44591 0
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... a whole new kind of attention. And third, there is his improbable place at the heart of modern American political philosophy. It was, peculiarly, Wilt Chamberlain on whom the libertarian philosopher RobertNozick chose to hang his full-blown critique of the interventionist state. The argument runs as follows. Imagine a society of perfect distributive justice according to any model you happen to prefer ...
20 May 1982
Philosophical Explanations 
by Robert Nozick.
Oxford, 765 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 19 824672 2
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... authors of best-selling paperbacks on how to live. A good time is had by all. It is a reasonable divvying-up of varied assignments which no single person could possibly carry out. So when a book like Nozick’s comes along which sets out to do the impossible – to do everything anyone has ever hoped a philosopher might do – the event is both exhilarating and depressing. Admiration of audacity is ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams

1 July 2015
Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... noted, can be far from liberal. Nonetheless, Christianity is part of the legacy that Westerners have and it has to be faced. To invent something more elevated and comfortable, the kind of thing that RobertNozick offered in his Philosophical Explanations (a book that Williams described as an attempt at the ‘Great American Novel of philosophy’), will not do. Some of the analytical arguments in the ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen

28 January 2010
Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... still more remarkable was that, by the time his defence was published, this orthodoxy had been powerfully challenged, especially by historians working in the Marxist tradition, from E.P. Thompson to Robert Brenner; and the old technological determinism was already giving way to very different interpretations of Marx. Cohen’s account of Marx’s theory of history, for all its ‘analytic ...
31 October 1996
Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality 
by G.A. Cohen.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £40, October 1995, 0 521 47174 5
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... against governments which sought to conscript them militarily or force them to practise the state religion. The reason for its recent resurrection by libertarians of the New Right, and especially RobertNozick, is not far to seek. We have strong moral intuitions about the importance of bodily integrity: rape and torture are perhaps the worst evils that humans can experience. These intuitions can be ...
20 December 1979
Western Political Thought in the Face of the Future 
by John Dunn.
Cambridge, 120 pp., £8.50
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... those philosophical constructions that elaborately achieve consistency and coherence abstract and remote from political reality – this is his verdict on the contemporary works by John Rawls and RobertNozick. Thus liberalism as a stance is liable to a variety of unsatisfactory oscillations and instabilities. Yet what alternatives are there? Dunn is ruthless, and rightly so, with Marxism and any ...
3 June 1982
Reason, Truth and History 
by Hilary Putnam.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £15, February 1982, 0 521 23035 7
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... scepticism, it is one that needs careful planning, because it is easy to go too far and to fall into subjectivism. The speculation that we might be brains in a vat seems to be endemic at Harvard. RobertNozick, in his recent book, argues ingeniously that, though he does not know that it is false, he does know something incompatible with it – namely, that he is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Putnam ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: At the Ladbroke Arms

22 February 2018
... was considered solidly Conservative. ‘Take back control’ was the slogan that the head of the Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, came up with in the spring of 2016. Cummings is a libertarian of the RobertNozick variety – he believes in rolling back all government, not simply Brussels. Two years later, and you might ask: take back control of what? It’s not just that the Conservative Party appears ...

Thinking about Death

Michael Wood: Why does the world exist?

21 March 2013
Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story 
by Jim Holt.
Profile, 307 pp., £12.99, June 2012, 978 1 84668 244 5
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... Updike. These conversations become a way of evoking possibilities as much as seeking answers, and some of these possibilities are fascinating, whatever our scepticism may be about the larger project. RobertNozick is cited (twice) as producing the elegant suggestion that we don’t have to choose between presence and absence, or between Heidegger’s Seiendes and Nichts, since we could have both ...

Local Justice

T.M. Scanlon

5 September 1985
Morality and Conflict 
by Stuart Hampshire.
Blackwell, 175 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 631 13336 4
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Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality 
by Michael Walzer.
Blackwell, 343 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 631 14063 8
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... valid for many different societies. This is the realm of abstract argument of the sort found in the writings of Spinoza and Kant and represented in our own day by the theories of John Rawls, RobertNozick and others (though these writers differ in how ‘universal’ they intend their principles to be). The essays collected in Morality and Conflict chronicle a movement in the author’s thought from ...
14 September 1989
Women and Moral Theory 
edited by Eva Kittay and Diana Meyers.
Rowman and Littlefield, 336 pp., $33.50, May 1989, 0 8476 7381 2
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Feminism as Critique 
edited by Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell.
Polity, 200 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 7456 0365 3
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The Sexual Contract 
by Carole Pateman.
Polity, 280 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 7456 0431 5
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Feminist Perspectives in Philosophy 
edited by Morwena Griffiths and Margaret Whitford.
Indiana, 244 pp., $35, June 1988, 0 253 32172 7
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... which not only restrict political as well as moral philosophy to the domain of rights, but also assert that liberals cannot say anything reasoned about the virtues. Such liberals – Ronald Dworkin, RobertNozick, to a large extent John Rawls himself – suggest that liberals can only be ‘agnostic about the good for man’. The friends of virtue and of care conclude that the liberal tradition offers ...

The Garden, the Park and the Meadow

David Runciman: After the Nation State

6 June 2002
The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History 
by Philip Bobbitt.
Allen Lane, 960 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7139 9616 1
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Reordering the World: The Long-Term Implications of 11 September 
edited by Mark Leonard.
Foreign Policy Centre, 124 pp., £9.95, March 2002, 1 903558 10 7
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... blockbuster. But the arguments he musters and the warnings he issues are curiously similar to those that have been coming out of one corner of the British Foreign Office for more than five years. Robert Cooper, who has written an essay in Reordering the World, was a senior policy adviser there (he recently left the Cabinet Office for the European Council, where he is senior civil servant for foreign ...

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