Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Nozick controversy

Together with a small circle of friends here in New York City, I was electrified by reading the book Anarchy, State and Utopia by the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002). Illuminated by vivid examples (the Wilt Chamberlain one is famous), the book was a sharp defense of the principles of individual liberty. It stood over against the work of another Harvard thinker, John Rawls, so very tedious and overrated.

A few years after reading the book, I was delighted to meet Robert Nozick at a gay conference in Boston. He was not gay, but had come to the event in order to learn. I will never forget his graciousness in responding to some questions I somewhat brashly raised He died prematurely of stomach cancer in 2002.

Just now Nozick’s work has been attacked in a prolix piece by Stephen Metcalf (“The Liberty Scam”; I am glad to say that this screed has been refuted by a number of writers. I won’t attempt to summarize the arguments here. Just Google Metcalf + Nozick.



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