Friday, 17 January 2014

ASU Ch.1: Why State of Nature theory?

Nozick makes two key arguments in this chapter:
  1. It should be assumed that in the state of nature people "satisfy moral constraints and generally act as they ought."
  2. If a state would arise from the state of nature without violating any rights then this can justify an existing state, even if the way in which the actual state came to be bears no resemblance to the way a non-rights-violating state would emerge.

Nozick considers assuming that the state of nature is as bad as it could possibly be, and that it is as good as it could possibly be. He rejects the first on the grounds that it is unfair to compare the worst imaginable state of nature with anything other than the worst imaginable state. However bad the state of nature may be, it can hardly be worse than the horrors of the worst human governments, and moreover if it was then we would retain the option of recreating government.

The second possible assumption - that the state of nature is to be conceived of in the best possible light - he also rejects as highly unlikely, utopian and speculative.

As such, he takes it that we should think of the state of nature as something in which people behave broadly as they do under human government, and as Rawls assumes they will in his just society: broad compliance with social and moral rules, as opposed to universal compliance.


Suppose that, given time, process P will cause phenomenon E to occur. As it happens, P does not actually cause P because an alternative process, Q, causes E first. In this case, P remains a potential explanation for E, and carries some information as to the nature of E. If Q had not been the case, then E would still be the case due to P (assuming, that is, that whatever prevented Q did not also prevent P).

Now, suppose E is the existence of a state, and P and Q are processes by which a state may have emerged from the state of nature. Q entails rights violations; P does not. Even if an actual state came to be via process Q, process P can still have justificatory power for the state, since had Q not happened then P would have and so a state would still exist.

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