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Robert Nozick (1938–2002)

Author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia

11+ Works 3,463 Members 30 Reviews 6 Favorited

About the Author

Educated at Columbia and Princeton universities, Robert Nozick is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He rose to eminence in the last quarter of the twentieth century as a creative philosopher who has expressed philosophical truths beyond the reach of analytic show more argumentation. Honed in the technical intricacies of analytic philosophy, he has nonetheless restored meditation to its proper place in the philosophical canon. Nozick's first book, Anarchy, State and Utopia (initially published in 1974), won the National Book Award in 1975 and became the fundamental text of the Libertarian movement. Nozick's second book, Philosophical Explanations, was given the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa in 1982. It covers a wide range of basic philosophical topics: the question why there is something rather than nothing, the identity of the self, knowledge and skepticism, free will, the foundation of ethnics, and the meaning of life. Nozick abandons philosophical proof or argumentation as too coercive and opts instead for methods of explanation that promote understanding. This approach has culminated in his third book, The Examined Life. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
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Works by Robert Nozick

Associated Works

The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul (1981) — Contributor — 2,806 copies
Western Philosophy: An Anthology (1996) — Author, some editions — 188 copies
Epistemology: An Anthology (2000) — Contributor — 187 copies
Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology (2000) — Contributor — 75 copies
Philosophy, Politics and Society: Fourth Series (1972) — Contributor — 20 copies
Conservative Texts: An Anthology (1991) — Contributor — 8 copies


20th century (24) American (9) analytic philosophy (12) anarchism (53) anarchy (20) economics (21) epistemology (34) essays (18) ethics (65) goodreads (8) government (16) history (10) justice (13) law (13) liberalism (20) libertarian (19) libertarianism (84) life (8) metaphysics (21) non-fiction (139) Nozick (32) own (13) owned (8) phil (8) philosophy (692) political (10) political philosophy (116) political science (49) political theory (66) politics (135) rationality (21) read (10) Robert Nozick (20) society (8) sociology (8) state (15) theory (9) to-read (122) unread (19) utopia (32)

Common Knowledge



One of this century’s most original philosophical thinkers, Nozick brilliantly renews Socrates’s quest to uncover the life that is worth living. In brave and moving meditations on love, creativity, happiness, sexuality, parents and children, the Holocaust, religious faith, politics, and wisdom, The Examined Life brings philosophy back to its preeminent subject, the things that matter most.
We join in Nozick’s reflections, weighing our experiences and judgments alongside those of past thinkers, to embark upon our own voyages of understanding and change. - from the publisher… (more)
PendleHillLibrary | 8 other reviews | Oct 14, 2023 |
Very thoroughly elucidates the internal contradictions and general impossibility of anarchy and libertarianism. The style is atrocious and the structure very meandering but its still worth suffering through the waffling.
Paul_S | 15 other reviews | Dec 23, 2020 |

"Freud tellingly depicted the strong and lingering effects of an even younger age, how the child's passionate desires, inadequate understanding, restricted emotional environment, constricted opportunities, and limited coping devices become fixed upon his own adult emotional life and reactions and continue to affect them. This situation is (to say the least) unseemly-- would you design an intelligent species so continuingly shaped by its childhood, one whose emotions had no half-life and where statutes of limitations could be invoked only with great difficulty?"

"..when all other things are equal, the more concentrated thought goes into making something, the more it is shaped, enriched, and laden with significance. So to with living a life."

"There are very few books that set out what a mature person can believe-- someone fully grown up, I mean. Aristotle's Ethics, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, Montaigne's Essays, and the essays of Samuel Johnson come to mind. Even with these, we do not simply accept everything that is said. The author's voice is never our own, exactly; the author's life is never our own. It would be disconcerting, anyway, to find that another person holds precisely our views, responds with our particular sensibility, and thinks exactly the same things important. Still, we can gain from these books, weighing and pondering ourselves in their light. These books-- and also some less evidently grown-up ones, Thoreau's Walden and Nietzsche's writings, for example-- invite or urge us to think along with them, branching in our own directions. We are not identical with the books we read, but neither would we be the same without them."

"They say no one is able to take seriously the possibility of his or her own death, but this does not get it exactly right. (Does everyone take seriously the possibility of his or her own life?) A person's own death does become real to him after the death of both parents. Until then, there was someone else who was "supposed to" die before him; now that no one stands between him and death, it becomes his "turn." (Is it presumed that death will honor a queue?)"

"How unwilling someone is to die should depend, I think, upon what he has left undone, and also upon his remaining capacity to do things. The more what he considered important has been done, and the less capacity that remains, the more willing he should be to face death." (...having done everything you considered important, mightn't you set yourself a new goal?)

"Under any alternative, no doubt, we would welcome an additional chance (at life)-- it would be ironic if we did get one, but, not realizing it was a second chance, squandered it just like the first."

"Nonsurvival is somber, but immortality too fits darker visions. Here is one that at present sounds like science fiction. One day, computer programs will be able to capture a person's intellectual mode, personality pattern, and character structure so that later generations can retrieve these. Thus would be realized one of immortality's two facets: continuing to exist as a coherent pattern of individual personality that another can experience. And the other facet, continuing to experience things and act, might be gained in part if the program encapsulating a person were made to govern a computer that acted in the world. Such immortality need not be wholly a blessing, however. Just as a person's ideas can be misused or vulgarized, so too could later civilizations exploit or misuse someone's individual personality, calling it up to serve projects and purposes the person never would have chosen to cooperate with when alive in the flesh."

"I understand the urge to cling to life until the very end, yet I find another course more appealing. After an ample life, a person who still possesses energy, acuity, and decisiveness might choose to seriously risk his life or lay it down for another person or for some noble and decent cause. Not that this should be done lightly or too soon, but some time before the nature end-- current health levels might suggest an age between seventy and seventy-five-- a person might direct his or her mind and energy toward helping others in a more dramatic and risky fashion than younger, more prudent folk would venture. These activities might involve great health risks in order to serve the sick, risks of physical harm in interposing oneself between oppressors and their victims-- I have in mind the kind of peaceful activities and nonviolent resistance that Gandhi and Martin Luther King engaged in, not a vigilante pursuit of wrongdoers-- or in aiding people within violence-ridden areas... such a path will not be for everyone, but some might seriously weigh spending their penultimate years in a brave and noble endeavor to benefit others, and andventure to advance the cause of truth, goodness, beauty, or holiness-- not going gentle into that good night or raging against the dying of the light but, near the end, shining their light most brightly."

"Being grown-up is a way of no longer being a child, hence a way of relating to one's parents, not just by acting as their parent but by stopping needing or expecting them to act as yours; and this includes stopping expecting the world to be a symbolic parent, too."

"The process of shaping and crafting an artistic work has, as an important part of its impulse, the reshaping and integration of parts of the self. Important and needed work on the self is modeled in the process of artistic creation, and symbolized there. (Might that work on the self also actually be andvanced through the creative work that models it?)"

"Others' explorings, respondings, and creatings enlarge us. In Chaucer's time, people did not know of Shakespeare yet were not conscious of missing anything. It is difficult now to imagine a world in which Shakespeare, Buddha, Jesus, or Einstein are absent, in which their absence goes unnoticed. What comparable voids exist now, waiting to be filled?"

"We are least separate from the world in eating. The world enters into us; it becomes us. We are constituted by portions of the world."

"Seeing everyday life as holy is in part seeing the world and its contents as infinitely receptive to our activities of exploring, responding, relating and creating, as an arena that would richly repay these activities no matter how far they are taken, whether by an individual or by all of humanity together throughout its time."

"I see people descended from a long sequence of human and animal forebears in an unnumbered train of chance events, accidental encounters, brutal takings, lucky escapes, sustained efforts, migrations, survivings of wars and disease. An intricate and improbable concatenation of events was needed to yield each of us, an immense history that gives each person the sacredness of a redwood, each child the whimsy of a secret."

"We want nothing other than to live in a spiral of activities and enhance others' doing so, deepening our own reality as we come into contact and relation with the rest, exploring the dimensions of reality, embodying them in ourselves, creating, responding to the full range of the reality we can discern with the fullest reality we possess, becoming a vehicle for truth, beauty, goodness, and holiness, adding our own characteristic bit to reality's eternal processes. And that wanting of nothing else, along with its attendant emotion, is-- by the way-- what constitutes happiness and joy."

"If we reach adulthood by becoming the parent of our parents, and we reach maturity by finding a fit substitute for parents' love, then by becoming our ideal parent ourselves finally the circle is closed and we reach completeness."
… (more)
runningbeardbooks | 8 other reviews | Sep 29, 2020 |



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