Explanation, justification, and emergent properties: An essay on Nozickian metatheory

Gerald Gaus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION In some ways, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU) has been a victim of its own success. For over thirty-five years it has been one of the most provocative works in political philosophy, and the preeminent defense of Lockean libertarianism. Almost all readers have read it with an eye to its conclusions. Statists and redistributionists see it as something to be combated and defeated; libertarians start out to defend it or, at least, modify it in constructive ways. Given this it is hardly surprising that the second part of ASU, arguing against the redistributive state, has been the focus of by far the most extensive, and famous, discussions. One shudders to think of how many essays have been written on Nozick's witty, four-age, Wilt Chamberlain example. The first part of ASU, in which Nozick argues against the anarchist, showing that minimal state is (in some sense) justifiable, has received much less attention. Eric Mack's contribution to this volume is an insightful analysis of Nozick's substantive case against anarchism, and how it might be modified to achieve success. If within ASU the first part generally goes unnoticed, within that part Nozick’s path-breaking analysis of invisible-hand explanations is almost entirely ignored in political philosophy. Readers focus on Nozick’s substantive claims, and not what he calls his “abstract” and “metatheoretical” comments about explanation and justification (p. 3). This is partly Nozick’s own doing; he directs readers away from his metatheoretical comments about the benefits of state of nature theories and invisible hands to his substantive account of the state of nature and the rise of the minimal state (p. 4).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781139005296
ISBN (Print)9780521197762
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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