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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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... Robert Nozick 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 turn the theory into, not exactly a transcendental reality, but something implanted deep in the minds of some, if not all, human beings who have been sculpted by Darwinian evolution ...


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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... Robert Nozick 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 their rights).’ Among Americans it is a claim which only a committed utilitarian is likely to wish to dispute ...


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 Robert Nozick 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 individual property rights, Nozick argued. You get what you make or find or work on (if no one else has made or found or worked on it first), and you get what you bargain for or what others choose for their own good reasons to give you or leave you in their wills ...

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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... political philosophy. It was, peculiarly, Wilt Chamberlain on whom the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick 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, in which everyone possesses precisely what they ...

Persuasive Philosophy

Richard Rorty, 20 May 1982

Philosophical Explanations 
by Robert Nozick.
Oxford, 765 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 19 824672 2
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... 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 mingled with fear of witnessing a pratfall. ...

My body is my own

David Miller, 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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... religion. The reason for its recent resurrection by libertarians of the New Right, and especially Robert Nozick, 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 framed in the language of self-ownership: it is ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: At the Ladbroke Arms, 22 February 2018

... campaign, Dominic Cummings, came up with in the spring of 2016. Cummings is a libertarian of the Robert Nozick 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 structurally, congenitally – however you want to ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 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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... and it has to be faced. To invent something more elevated and comfortable, the kind of thing that Robert Nozick 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 book were brilliant, but at the end ...

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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... of these possibilities are fascinating, whatever our scepticism may be about the larger project. Robert Nozick 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, eventually (perhaps ‘the universe is not yet spiritually ...

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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... 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’ refinements and ‘functional’ explanations, in the end comes ...

Microcosm and Macrocosm

David Pears, 3 June 1982

Reason, Truth and History 
by Hilary Putnam.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £15, February 1982, 0 521 23035 7
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... subjectivism. The speculation that we might be brains in a vat seems to be endemic at Harvard. Robert Nozick, 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 does not let things get so far, because he thinks ...
Western Political Thought in the Face of the Future 
by John Dunn.
Cambridge, 120 pp., £8.50
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... remote from political reality – this is his verdict on the contemporary works by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. 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 other contemporary doctrine of revolution. This is not ...

Friends of Difference

Onora O’Neill, 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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... that liberals cannot say anything reasoned about the virtues. Such liberals – Ronald Dworkin, Robert Nozick, 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 them no footholds. They look to ...

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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... in the writings of Spinoza and Kant and represented in our own day by the theories of John Rawls, Robert Nozick 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 philosophical theory of this kind to the view ...

Sheep don’t read barcodes

Glen Newey: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, 22 March 2012

Thinking, Fast and Slow 
by Daniel Kahneman.
Allen Lane, 499 pp., £25, November 2011, 978 1 84614 055 6
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... scheme is the best way to shift the books. After all, you’d need to be a fairly besotted fan of Robert Ludlum to see any point in buying two indistinguishable copies of The Bourne Ultimatum. The idea may be that, unlike cans of beans, books are unique and personal purchases; readers’ personal bond with an author may be shaken, even with ...

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