The right to distribute

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The examples in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU) are among the most arresting ever constructed by a philosopher: the experience machine, Wilt Chamberlain, the distribution of mates, the distribution of grades, and pouring tomato juice in the ocean. Provocative though his examples have proven to be, they still strike me as somewhat underappreciated. This chapter reflects mainly on the second part of Nozick's book. There is some criticism here, and some extending to be sure, but my main purpose is simply to reconstruct some of Nozick's most important insights about justice. RAWLS'S EXPERIENCE MACHINE The agenda for contemporary philosophical works on justice was set in the 1970s by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Nozick said: “Political philosophers now must either work within Rawls's theory or explain why not” (p. 183). There is truth in the compliment; yet when it came to explaining why not, no one did more than Nozick. Rawls sought to model justice as a kind of fairness. Many sorts of things can be fair. Evaluations can be fair, or not. Shares can be fair, or not. As Rawls modeled the intuition behind his departure from strict egalitarianism, we initially assume we are entitled to an equal share of the pie, but realize we can make the pie bigger by encouraging each other to work harder. We encourage each other by rewarding efforts to make the pie bigger: offering more pie to those who do more work. In effect, we allow inequalities if and when doing so makes us better off. I call this the Precursor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781139005296
ISBN (Print)9780521197762
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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