Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Michael Burke, Robert Nozick and Philodemus

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8 ideas

25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / d. Free market
If people hold things legitimately, just distribution is simply the result of free exchanges [Nozick, by Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: If we assume that everyone is entitled to the goods they currently possess (their 'holdings'), then a just distribution is simply whatever distribution results from people's free exchanges.
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.1.b
     A reaction: If people's current 'legitimate' holdings are hugely unequal, it seems very unlikely that the ensuing exchanges will be 'free' in the way that Nozick envisages.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
Property is legitimate by initial acquisition, voluntary transfer, or rectification of injustice [Nozick, by Swift]
     Full Idea: Nozick identified three ways in which people can acquire a legitimate property holding: initial acquisition, voluntary transfer, and rectification (of unjust transfers).
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Adam Swift - Political Philosophy (3rd ed) 1 'Nozick'
     A reaction: I think it is a delusion to look for justice in the ownership of property. You can't claim justice for buying property if the money to do it was acquired unjustly. And what rights over those who live on the land come with the 'ownership'?
Nozick assumes initial holdings include property rights, but we can challenge that [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: Nozick assumes that the initial distribution of holdings includes full property-rights over them, ..but our preferred theory may not involve distributing such particular rights to particular people. ...The legitimacy of such rights is what is in question.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.1.c
     A reaction: [somewhat compressed] All of these political philosophies seem to have questionable values (such as freedom or equality) built into their initial assumptions.
How did the private property get started? If violence was involved, we can redistribute it [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: How did these natural resources, which were not initially owned by anyone, come to be part of someone's private property? ...The fact that the initial acquisition often involved force means there is no moral objection to redistributing existing wealth.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.2.b
     A reaction: [He cites G.A. Cphen 1988 for the second point] Put like this, Nozick's theory just looks like the sort of propaganda which is typically put out by the winners. Is there an implicit threat of violent resistance in his advocacy of individual rights?
Can I come to own the sea, by mixing my private tomato juice with it? [Nozick]
     Full Idea: If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea?
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.175)
     A reaction: This is a reductio of Locke's claim that I can own land by 'mixing' my labour with it. At first glance, mixing something with something would seem to have nothing to do with ownership.
If property is only initially acquired by denying the rights of others, Nozick can't get started [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: If there is no way that people can appropriate unowned resources for themselves without denying other people's claim to equal consideration, then Nozick's right of transfer never gets off the ground.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.2.b.i
     A reaction: The actual history of these things is too complex to judge. Early peoples desperately wanted a lord to rule over them, and their lord's ownership of the land implied the people's right to live there. See Anglo-Saxon poetry.
Unowned things may be permanently acquired, if it doesn't worsen the position of other people [Nozick]
     Full Idea: One may acquire a permanent bequeathable property right in a previously unowned thing, as long as the position of others no longer at liberty to use the thing is not thereby worsened.
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.178), quoted by G.A. Cohen - Are Freedom and Equality Compatible? 2
     A reaction: Cohen attacks this vigorously. His main point is that Nozick has a very narrow view of what the acquisition should be compared with. There are many alternatives. Does being made unable to improve something 'worsen' a person's condition?
Maybe land was originally collectively owned, rather than unowned? [Cohen,GA on Nozick]
     Full Idea: Why should we not regard land as originally collectively owned rather than, as Nozick takes for granted, owned by no one?
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.178) by G.A. Cohen - Are Freedom and Equality Compatible? 2
     A reaction: Did native Americans and Australians collectively own the land? Lots of peoples, I suspect, don't privately own anything, because the very concept has never occured to them (and they have no legal system).