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Robert Nozick und der gute Kampf

Robert Nozick und der gute Kampf

4 Min.
September 9, 2010

March 2002 -- "Whoever makes something, having bought or contracted for all other held resources used in the process…is entitled to it. The situation is not one of something's getting made, and there being an open question of who is to get it. Things come into the world already attached to people having entitlements over them…. Those who start afresh to complete 'to each according to his ____' treat objects as if they appeared from nowhere, out of nothing."

I first read that passage in a book manuscript that was circulating in the Princeton University philosophy department in 1974. It reminded me of the words Ayn Rand put in the mouth of her hero in Atlas Shrugged :

"[I]ndividuals are ends and not merely means; they may not be sacrificed or used for the achieving of other ends without their consent. Individuals are inviolable."

-Robert Nozick

"The socialist society would have to forbid capitalist acts between consenting adults."  Nozick

Though he made ample use of economic theory in this critique, he wrote primarily from a moral point of view. Like Rand, he enraged the Left by denying them the moral high ground—and he did so with great wit. "The socialist society," said Nozick, "would have to forbid capitalist acts between consenting adults." In a discussion of the income tax as a device for redistribution, he argued that "taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor." On one issue after another, he punctured the political idealism of those who wanted government to pursue their vision of utopia; he did it by showing that any such program uses coercion to violate individual autonomy.

In the world of academic philosophy, Nozick became the most prominent advocate of libertarianism, the theorist with whom every other viewpoint had to contend. This was not because his case for freedom was fundamentally original. Many of the arguments he used can be found in the long tradition of classical liberalism, from John Locke in the seventeenth century to Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand in our own era. The reason for Nozick's prominence was principally that he cast the arguments in the method and style of analytic philosophy, the approach that dominates academic philosophy in English-speaking countries.

As the name suggests, analytic philosophers consider their job to be the close and detailed analysis of issues. They prize philosophical dissection: subtle distinctions, rigorous arguments, precise formulations of positions. Nozick was a master of this approach. He handled the scalpel of analysis with a speed and dexterity that awed his colleagues, even when they didn't like his views. And indeed, his book did much to clarify issues of distributive justice and the nature of the conflict between libertarians and egalitarians.

But the goal of close analysis creates occupational hazards. Analytic philosophers are often insensitive to the wider context of the issues they deal with and unwilling—or unable—to examine their own fundamental assumptions, concepts, and methods. As a result, they tend to take for granted the current state of play in their specialist domains, treating complex, derivative concepts and assumptions as axiomatic. Nozick was no exception.

This was nowhere clearer, to me at least, than in an early article he wrote criticizing Rand's moral and political philosophy. Nozick more or less completely failed to come to grips with Rand's theory, spinning his wheels in an effort to break apart her integrated view of human life and values. In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the shortcoming of his method was most evident in his failure to explain why individuals are ends in themselves and why they are inviolable; his statement of the principle was about as far as he went. Nozick did not accept Rand's explanation that individuals are ends in themselves because life is metaphysically an end in itself, the fundamental value that each person seeks to realize. But he did not offer any alternative.

Nevertheless, Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a genuine classic in the literature of freedom. Robert Nozick fought the good fight with intellectual brilliance, moral idealism, and personal courage. Everyone else engaged in that fight owes him a large debt of gratitude.

This article was originally published in the March 2002 issue of
Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.

David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley ist der Gründer von The Atlas Society. Als professioneller Philosoph, Lehrer und Bestsellerautor ist er seit mehr als 25 Jahren ein führender Verfechter des Objektivismus.

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David Kelley Ph.D
About the author:
David Kelley Ph.D

David Kelley founded The Atlas Society (TAS) in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Kelley ist ein professioneller Philosoph, Lehrer und Schriftsteller. Nachdem er 1975 an der Princeton University in Philosophie promoviert hatte, trat er in die Philosophieabteilung des Vassar College ein, wo er eine breite Palette von Kursen auf allen Ebenen unterrichtete. Er unterrichtete auch Philosophie an der Brandeis University und hielt häufig Vorträge an anderen Universitäten.

Zu Kelleys philosophischen Schriften gehören Originalwerke in den Bereichen Ethik, Erkenntnistheorie und Politik, von denen viele die objektivistischen Ideen in neuer Tiefe und in neuen Richtungen weiterentwickeln. Er ist der Autor von Die Evidenz der Sinneeiner Abhandlung zur Erkenntnistheorie; Wahrheit und Duldung im Objektivismusüber Themen in der objektivistischen Bewegung; Ungetrübter Individualismus: Die egoistische Basis des Wohlwollensund The Art of Reasoning, ein weit verbreitetes Lehrbuch für einführende Logik, das jetzt in der 5.

Kelley hat zu einer Vielzahl von politischen und kulturellen Themen Vorträge gehalten und veröffentlicht. Seine Artikel über soziale Fragen und die öffentliche Ordnung sind unter anderem in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman und On Principle erschienen. In den 1980er Jahren schrieb er häufig für das Barrons Financial and Business Magazine über Themen wie Gleichberechtigung, Einwanderung, Mindestlohngesetze und Sozialversicherung.

Sein Buch A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State ist eine Kritik an den moralischen Prämissen des Wohlfahrtsstaates und eine Verteidigung privater Alternativen, die die Autonomie, Verantwortung und Würde des Einzelnen bewahren. Sein Auftritt in John Stossels ABC/TV-Sondersendung "Greed" im Jahr 1998 löste eine landesweite Debatte über die Ethik des Kapitalismus aus.

Er ist ein international anerkannter Experte für Objektivismus und hat zahlreiche Vorträge über Ayn Rand, ihre Ideen und ihre Werke gehalten. Er war Berater bei der Verfilmung von Atlas Shruggedund Herausgeber von Atlas Shrugged: Der Roman, die Filme, die Philosophie.


Hauptwerk (ausgewählt):

"Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl)," Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Sommer 2021); Diese Rezension eines kürzlich erschienenen Buches enthält einen tiefen Einblick in die Ontologie und Epistemologie von Konzepten.

Die Grundlagen des Wissens. Sechs Vorlesungen über die objektivistische Erkenntnistheorie.

"Das Primat der Existenz" und "Die Erkenntnistheorie der Wahrnehmung", The Jefferson School, San Diego, Juli 1985

"Universalien und Induktion", zwei Vorträge auf GKRH-Konferenzen, Dallas und Ann Arbor, März 1989

"Skeptizismus", York University, Toronto, 1987

"Die Natur des freien Willens", zwei Vorträge am Portland Institute, Oktober 1986

"The Party of Modernity", Cato Policy Report, Mai/Juni 2003; und Navigator, November 2003; ein viel zitierter Artikel über die kulturellen Unterschiede zwischen vormodernen, modernen (aufklärerischen) und postmodernen Ansichten.

"I Don't Have To"(IOS Journal, Band 6, Nummer 1, April 1996) und "I Can and I Will"(The New Individualist, Herbst/Winter 2011); begleitende Beiträge zur Verwirklichung der Kontrolle, die wir als Individuen über unser Leben haben.

Ideen und Ideologien
Politische Philosophie