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Robert Nozick and the Theory of Distributive Justice (Essay Sample)

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– Introduction to Law and Social Thought
Third written assignment
Answer one of the following questions in no more than 6-7 pages (double-spaced, standard 12-pt font). Make sure to explain any technical terms you use in your response. Identify all quotations. All sentences that are not identified as quotations must be your own.
1. Rousseau’s doctrine of the general will appears to hover between two poles. On the one hand, he suggests that the general will is the will of the assembled people, provided that certain conditions are met (see for instance Social Contract, bk. IV, chap. ii). On the other hand, he says that the general will “is always right and always tends toward the public utility” (Social Contract, bk. II, chap. iii). Can these two aspects of his view be reconciled? If so, explain how this might be done in your view. If not, which idea do you think is most important to Rousseau’s overall position, and why?
2. The argument for the difference principle brings out a radical aspect of Rawls’s position: as he sees it, a truly just society would not only seek to provide an adequate minimum for all its citizens; it would aim to make the worst-off position in society as good as possible—even if that comes at the cost of making the society as a whole less prosperous. What is Rawls’s argument for this conclusion? Is it convincing?
Note: Bear in mind that Rawls argues for this conclusion in terms of what the parties in the original position would choose. Try to elucidate why Rawls thinks that the parties would make the choice he describes, and then evaluate his argument.
3. Is Robert Nozick right to maintain that the very idea of distributive justice is in tension with individual liberty? Reconstruct what you take to be Nozick’s most forceful argument for this conclusion, and assess how damaging it is for John Rawls’s position and the requirements of distributive justice that it includes.
Before you start writing:
!Make sure you read through the Dos and Don’ts for the assignment posted on Moodle.
!If you are not familiar with York University’s policy on academic integrity, look it up on the following website:
http://www(dot)yorku(dot)ca/academicintegrity/students/index.htm
You are responsible for making sure you understand and follow this policy. Ignorance is not an excuse.
!Check out these useful resources:
- Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper, by Glendon’s own Professor Chris Campbell
(on Moodle)
- Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper, by Professor Jim Pryor of NYU, available on

 

This is a philosophy essay  – Introduction to Law and Social Thought Third written assignment Answer one of the following questions in no more than 6-7 pages (double-spaced, standard 12-pt font). Make sure to explain any technical terms you use in your response. Identify all quotations. All sentences that are not identified as quotations must be your own. 1. Rousseau’s doctrine of the general will appears to hover between two poles. On the one hand, he suggests that the general will is the will of the assembled people, provided that certain conditions are met (see for instance Social Contract, bk. IV, chap. ii). On the other hand, he says that the general will “is always right and always tends toward the public utility” (Social Contract, bk. II, chap. iii). Can these two aspects of his view be reconciled? If so, explain how this might be done in your view. If not, which idea do you think is most important to Rousseau’s overall position, and why? 2. The argument for the difference principle brings out a radical aspect of Rawls’s position: as he sees it, a truly just society would not only seek to provide an adequate minimum for all its citizens; it would aim to make the worst-off position in society as good as possible—even if that comes at the cost of making the society as a whole less prosperous. What is Rawls’s argument for this conclusion? Is it convincing? Note: Bear in mind that Rawls argues for this conclusion in terms of what the parties in the original position would choose. Try to elucidate why Rawls thinks that the parties would make the choice he describes, and then evaluate his argument. 3. Is Robert Nozick right to maintain that the very idea of distributive justice is in tension with individual liberty? Reconstruct what you take to be Nozick’s most forceful argument for this conclusion, and assess how damaging it is for John Rawls’s position and the requirements of distributive justice that it includes. Before you start writing: !Make sure you read through the Dos and Don’ts for the assignment posted on Moodle. !If you are not familiar with York University’s policy on academic integrity, look it up on the following website: http://www.yorku.ca/academicintegrity/students/index.htm You are responsible for making sure you understand and follow this policy. Ignorance is not an excuse. !Check out these useful resources: - Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper, by Glendon’s own Professor Chris Campbell (on Moodle) - Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper, by Professor Jim Pryor of NYU, available on

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Content:


Robert Nozick and the Theory of Distributive Justice
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Institutional Affiliation
Robert Nozick and the Theory of Distributive Justice
In his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” published in 1974, Robert Nozick, an American political philosopher with wide-ranging interests, pressed further John Rawls’s aspects of anti-consequentialism presented in “A Theory of Justice” publication in 1971 (Feser, n.d). In his award-winning book, Nozick argues in his 1974 book that respects for the individual right is central for the assessment of any state action, and the only legitimate state is that minimal state that limits its activities to protecting freedom, contract, property, and the rights of human life (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018). While Rawls’s arguments seem to be a systematic defense of egalitarian liberalism, Nozick’s conceptions are a gripping defense of libertarian doctrines. According to Nozick, distributive justice appears to mean that there is some pre-existing central authority that defines how shares of income and wealth should be distributed to individuals (Festus, n.d). In this paper, I will begin by explaining the theory of distributive justice to show how and why Nozick’s right to maintain that the very idea of distributive justice is in contrast with individual liberty by drawing from concepts advanced by both Nozick and Rawls; I will then reconstruct what I take to be Nozick’s most forceful argument to arrive at this conclusion and assess how damaging it is for Rawls’s position and the requirements of distributive justice that it includes.
Every modern society has political, social, and economic systems with defined institutions, policies, and laws that direct how benefits and burdens should be spread across its members. However, these frameworks that are as a result of human political processes have been shown to undergo constant changes across different societies as well as within some societies over different times (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017). From this landscape, liberal theories emerged as an expression of laissez-faire to compensate for elements that are considered to be morally arbitrary. Libertarians such as Nozick consider that state actions are only just after considering factors such as individuals’ preferences, abilities, and their holding of land. 

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