In 1974, Robert Nozick wrote a lengthy response to John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, called “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”. One of Nozick’s core critiques of Rawls, centers around a characterization of the kind of Justice that Rawls was advocating. Nozick called it, the justice of “patterned distributions”.
Famously, Nozick argued against a fixed “patterned distribution” of wealth, using the metaphor of famous basketball player Wilt Chamberlain. The entire allegory is too much for this post but to summarize briefly, he pointed out through this metaphor that, given a regime of voluntary individual exchanges which, are ostensibly morally acceptable even on Rawls conception of patterned justice, the only way to maintain a fixed pattern of distribution, would be through the application of force, which itself could be construed as unjust, on Rawls’ own theory.
The following is not a sustained argument, so much as an exploration of impressions derived from the last few years of reading. There are arguments to be gleaned from it, but I must confess, they’re not entirely conscious efforts. The blind squirrel of my mind is finding a few nuts as he tries to feel his way out of the forest.
Plato and Aristotle had very different ideas about Justice. But I am less and less convinced that they disagreed about it, fundamentally.
Critics of Rawls claim that his “original position” argument entails a special metaphysical conception of the self. The critics say that this metaphysical conception of the self in the original position thus renders it metaphysically loaded, contra Rawls. In Political Liberalism, Rawls argues against his critics, insisting that the original position was merely a thought experiment meant to aid in the intuitive realization of the principles of justice according to a uniform standard of fairness.
In a Psychology Today interview posted today, Stevan Harnad has this to say, in response to criticisms over his equating The Holocaust with animal slaughter. I’m going to set aside his All Capital Letters Defense Of His “Eternal Treblinka”, and instead, focus on his argument defending “sentience”, which as we’ll see, is only barely an argument:
…The Holocaust is Humanity’s Greatest Crime Against Humanity. But the Eternal Treblinka we inflict on animals is Humanity’s Greatest Crime.
In any given exchange market (whether free or otherwise), goods and services are traded as a matter of course, in the pursuit of both individual and social goals. Those trades will result in substantive outcomes both for the individuals involved in trades, and more broadly for society as a whole. It has been suggested that some of those outcomes may be undeserved. If we assume this to be the case, the question then arises, are undeserved market outcomes are unjust?
The following pseudo-dialogue is based on my reading of part three of Philippa Foot’s famous essay, “Virtues and Vices”, which can be found here. All of her “dialogue” constitutes direct quotes from the essay. In this essay, she seems to me to be anxious about identifying vice for what it is and has crafted a sophisticated means of diluting the boundaries between virtue and vice, in order to relieve that anxiety.