Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Political Philosophy

What was Robert Nozick’s own political theory?

Nozick (1938–2002) held that any form of distribution is just if those involved are entitled to what they own. Entitlements concern acquisition and transfer of property, as well as the rectification of prior wrongs and errors.

He favored a minimal state that served a policing function and defended strong private property rights for its citizens. Although when analyzing John Locke’s (1632–1704) idea that private property is based on mixing labor with something, he posed this question:

Why does mixing one’s labor with something make one the owner of it…. If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea … do I thereby own the sea, or have I foolishly dissipated my tomato juice?

Nozick resolved this puzzle by moving from a metaphysical ground to a utilitarian one, the same way Locke did. We are entitled to what we mix our labor with because the added labor increases the value of the original material.


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