University of Kansas, Spring 2004
Philosophy 555: Justice and Economic Systems

Class notes: Nozick, chapters 3–4

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

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  1. chapter 3: “Moral Constraints and the State”
    1. the main business of the chapter (pp. 26–35 and pp. 51–53)
      1. three stages on the road to statehood
        1. a dominant protective association neither
          1. claims a monopoly on the use of force nor
          2. protects everyone
        2. an ultraminimal state does 1 but not 2
        3. the minimal state does both 1 and 2
      2. the ultraminimal state
        1. avoids being accused of being redistributive by eschewing function 2—protecting everyone (p. 26.6–8)
        2. still vulnerable to this objection: If the protecting of rights is so important that it is the sole legitimate function of the state, then why is it not important enough to make function 2 compulsory? (p. 28.1)
      3. reply to objection
        1. two views of rights
          1. as things whose violations are to be minimized—“utilitarianism of rights” (p. 28.6)
          2. as things giving rise to side constraints (p. 29.3)
        2. objection is answered by viewing rights in the second way (p. 30.1)
      4. one more objection and reply
        1. objection: What is the basis for regarding rights in this way?
        2. reply, part 1: why side constraints?
          1. p. 31.2: “Individuals are inviolable”
          2. pp. 32.9–33.1: no social entity resembling individual person
        3. reply, part 2: libertarian constraints
          1. an additional side constraint “prohibit[ing] aggression against another” (p. 33.6)
          2. derived from the very existence of (any) side constraints (p. 34.2)
      5. done and not done
        1. done: showing that the ultraminimal state’s view of rights is a coherent one
        2. not done (p. 52.6)
          1. showing how a dominant protective association leads, in a morally acceptable way, to an ultraminimal state, despite appearance of immorality (pp. 51.7–52.8)
          2. showing how an ultraminimal state leads, in a morally acceptable way, to a minimal state
    2. an interlude concerning some other topics (pp. 35–51)
      1. constraints and animals
        1. implications for moral side constraints (p. 38.3)
        2. inadequacy of utilitarianism, even for animals (p. 42.3)
      2. the experience machine
        1. showing a further problem for utilitarianism, apparently
        2. showing that more may matter, in regard to animals, than their experiences (p. 45.3)
      3. underdetermination of moral theory
        1. roughly equally good accounting of our intuitions by (p. 47.4)
          1. the elitist hierarchical theory placing people in status 2
          2. the elitist hierarchical theory placing people in status 3 (the absolute-side-constraint theory)
        2. So how strong are the apparent side-constraints protecting humans?
      4. What are constraints based upon?
        1. mystery of connection between characteristics and constraints (p. 48.7)
        2. need for some middle term (p. 49.3)
        3. meaning of life? (p. 50.5)
        4. end of long digression into the basis/foundation/justification of moral constraints
  2. chapter 4: “Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk”
    1. the main business of the chapter (pp. 54–58 and pp. 81–84)
      1. legitimacy of interfering with someone when he or she is likely to misenforce his or her rights (p. 56.2)
      2. relevance of this: transition from dominant protective association to ultraminimal state
        1. Recall that the ultraminimal state differs from a dominant protective association in virtue of claiming a monopoly on the use of force.
        2. In order for this to be legitimate, the dominant protective association (i.e., its members must be entitled to interfere with an independent’s activities of enforcing his or her rights.
      3. key to the legitimacy of interfering: Independents’ rights-enforcing activities are likely to be risky (i.e., risk causing harms to others), and risky behaviors may legitimately be interfered with (p. 56.8).
      4. prohibition and compensation
        1. Regard a harm as prohibited if the agent must pay something over and above enough to compensate the victim (p. 57.3).
        2. Then this question arises (p. 57.3): Are we prohibited from violating others’ rights, or just required to compensate others when we do so?
      5. principle of compensation
        1. compensate for prohibitions that disadvantage those whose actions are prohibited (pp. 82.9–83.1)
        2. less generous (to victims of prohibitions) than compensation for every inconvenience
        3. more generous than not compensating at all, no matter how oppressive the prohibitions
        4. principle that will (1) entitle the dominant protective association to become an ultraminimal state and (2) require an ultraminimal state to become a minimal state
    2. musings on prohibition, compensation, and risk
      1. Why ever prohibit?
        1. lack of deterrence power of only requiring compensation
        2. retributive and deterrence theories of punishment (a digression)
          1. possible failure of retributive punishment to deter (p. 61.2)
          2. objectionable equal regard to criminals and victims in utilitarian deterrence theory (p. 61.6–7)
        3. dividing the benefits of exchange
          1. a (second) problem with regarding compensation as sufficient: it’s equivalent to a bargain in which the “buyer” (the boundary crosser) gets all of the benefits, and the “seller” (the victim) just breaks even, which is “unfair and arbitrary” (p. 64.3)
          2. p. 65.1: why “cannot avoid the charge of unfairness”?
        4. fear and prohibition
          1. a (third) problem with regarding compensation as sufficient: the uncompensated fear felt by potential victims (p. 66.7, p. 68.1)
          2. an unanswered question: “Is our argument too utilitarian?” (p. 69.5)
          3. end of answer to “Why ever prohibit?”
      2. Why not always prohibit?
        1. one reason: possibly high costs of obtaining permission in advance (p. 71.9)
        2. necessary conditions for compensation to be enough:
          1. not fear-producing in the way described earlier (p. 72.6)
          2. cost of prior consent exceeds cost of posterior compensation (p. 73.2)
          3. more conditions in need of specification (p. 73.5)
        3. risk
          1. when risks of rights violations are also rights violations (p. 74.8)
          2. fairest, but impractical, solution: compensation for undergoing risk (p. 76.8)
          3. more practical: compensation for harms (p. 77.3)
        4. the principle of compensation
          1. continuing and expanding on the previous topic
          2. a (second) reason not to always prohibit: oppressiveness, for certain individuals, of prohibitions on risky activities (pp. 78.8–79.1)
      3. productive exchange
        1. defending principle of compensation against analogue of benefits-of-exchange objection
        2. two necessary conditions for unproductive exchange (such as blackmail)
          1. buyer is not advantaged relative to seller’s absence (p. 84.8)
          2. seller has no motive aside from the exchange itself (p. 85.2)
        3. no need for “fair” sharing of benefits when an exchange is unproductive for one party (p. 86.2)
        4. p. 86.7: “reject[ion of] the view that the prohibition of risky activities is illegitimate”
        5. p. 86.8: but not a case of compensation for border-crossing (of the sort discussed above)
        6. p. 87.7: use of principle of compensation subsequently