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Phil 2265: Social / Phil 2265: Social / Political Philosophy Political Philosophy Nozick completed

Phil 2265: Social / Political Philosophy

Jan 02, 2016



Phil 2265: Social / Political Philosophy. Nozick completed. The Question. On what grounds can we say that the actions of the majority are immoral?. In what way is the power of the majority limited by morality? Or What actions of the state are impermissible?. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
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  • Phil 2265: Social / Political PhilosophyNozick completed

  • The QuestionOn what grounds can we say that the actions of the majority are immoral?

  • Two variationsIn what way is the power of the majority limited by morality?OrWhat actions of the state are impermissible?In what ways are we, as individuals obligated to resist the immorality of the majority?OrWhat actions of the individual are obligatory, even if they are illegal?

  • The question, then is this:Where does politics stop and ethics begin?

  • PersonhoodIn reality (I.e. historically) defined by the dominant religion / ideology of the time:Slaves as 3/5Women as propertyWomen as childishAtheists (heathens) as infidelsThe colonized as children

  • What is a person?If a bird craps on your head, do we hold it morally responsible?

  • Personhood as moral agentWe hold people morally responsible for their actions that is what separates people from birds, tools, etc..If you want praise, you must take blame.Taking responsibility for the outcomes of your actions is the fundamental defining fact of the status of full personhood:Child -> adultAdult -> SenilityImaginary cases of brainwashing or homunculus control.

  • If the state is limited w.r.t. my personhood, then the state is immoral if it:Makes moral decisions for me.Blocks my actions from the responsibility they entail.Convinces me that I am not a fully moral agent, capable of making my own decisions.And, when it (or someone else) does (1) (2) or (3), they dehumanize me they make me something less than a moral agent, and therefore less than a full, autonomous person.

  • Comparison:Rawls = the first principle of liberty is based on the one freedom that cannot be denied: freedom of conscience.Nozick = personhood as limiting factor of state BUT, personhood defined in terms of intention, not responsibility.

  • The differences play out:Any institution that blocks my responsibility for my actions while a part of that institution dehumanizes me:The DMVTech SupportCaps on lawsuitsBlockage of lawsuits against HMOsCorporate fraud loopholes.

  • Second:Responsibility extends beyond my intentions to the results of my actionsUnion Carbides Bopal disaster.Exxon ValdezDouble parking

  • ReflectionsThe perpetual adolescence in American culture is one aspect of absolving individuals of their responsibility of dehumanizing them to something less than a fully moral agent.

  • Trickery afoot!Recall where we were w/ Nozick:The question was: how to we move from a dominant protective association to a legitimate monopoly without violating the individuals status as a person (who can plan)?

  • Now, we have a better sense of the problem:How do we force others to participate in our system of government without blocking their right to plan for their futureOrHow do we force others not to block my responsibility / right to make moral decision without, thereby, blocking their right to make moral decisions?

  • For NozickThe paranoid accuses me of causing him pain, and seeks compensation.I ask for evidence of that pain, and proof that I will be judged fairly.If the paranoid cannot produce satisfactory evidence, or cannot demonstrate that his system of adjudication is reliable, I am under no obligation to compensate him.

  • So what will happen if there is an independent paranoid in our midst?


  • But the state is obligated to prevent fear because no compensation can be fair.

    Therefore, the state is obligated to announce that anyone using an unreliable method of justice against anyone of its clients will be punished (proportionately to the fear induced).

  • What about an independent who never uses his/her unreliable procedure?

    Still not allowed, because of an epistemic constraint we cannot know that that independent will not use it in the future (without some sort of prohibition on such use), and the fear of the unknown is still fear.

  • SoWe, as members of the association, can seek huge compensation awards from the radical independent just because they might use an unreliable procedure against us.

    Thats not a good thing.

  • Monopoly?Almost the dominant protective association does have a unique status,it alone enforces the prohibition on unreliable procedures.It alone determines the procedures that are reliable.

  • To get to monopolyConsider a driving epileptic.The prohibition on his/her driving does violate his/her plan in life, BUT the risk (fear) caused by not prohibiting is too great.How much would it cost to compensate all those who fear the epileptic v. the amount we have to pay the epileptic?

  • The radical is like the epilepticThe independent radical causes far more fear (which would have to be compensated at a very high rate) than the compensation entailed by their being forced to join the dominant protective association.

  • How much compensation?The epileptic gets enough compensation to remove the damage caused by his/her not driving.

    The radical independent is compensated for the disadvantages of joining the dominant protective association (which are? - judged by the procedure endorsed by the dominant protective association, after all).

  • Lets suppose its fairThen while you and I pay for protection, the radical independent gets paid for the same protection!

    Why not quit the state and start receiving a check?

  • Minimal conditions for a state?Universal coverage within a geographic regionMonopoly over enforcement.

  • and all of this without violating the individuals right to plan without compensating them for the inconvenience!