Working within a Lockean tradition, William Blackstone (1765) characterized property as the ‘sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.’ In practice, though, property rights in the Anglo-American tradition have always been hedged with restrictions. The dominion to which Blackstone refers is limited by easements, covenants, nuisance laws, zoning laws, regulatory statutes, and more generally by the public interest. (...) Wesley Hohfeld (1913) distinguished between rights and liberties. I am at liberty to use P just in case my using P is not prohibited. I have a right to P just in case my using P is not prohibited, plus I have the additional liberty of being able to prohibit others from using P. That is to say, the difference between a mere liberty and a full-blooded property right is that with the latter, there is an owner who holds a right to exclude other would-be users. Today, the term ‘property rights’ generally is understood to refer to a bundle of rights that could include rights to sell, lend, bequeath, use as collateral, or even destroy. (John Lewis generally is regarded as the first person to use the ‘bundle of sticks’ metaphor, in 1888.) The fact remains, though, that at the heart of any property right is a right to say no: a right to exclude non-owners. In other words, a right to exclude is not just one stick in a bundle. Rather, property is a tree. Other sticks are branches; the right to exclude is the trunk. This is not merely a stipulation, because unless an owner has a right to say no, the other sticks are reduced to mere liberties rather than genuine rights. Thus, I could be the owner of a.. (shrink)
I remember being a child, wondering where I would be—wondering who I would be—when the year 2000 arrived. I hoped I would live that long. I hoped I would be in reasonable health. I would not have guessed I would have a white collar job, or that I would live in the United States. I would have laughed if you had told me the new millennium would find me giving a public lecture on the meaning of life. But that is (...) life, unfolding as it does, meaning whatever it means. I am grateful to be here. I also am simply amazed. I am forty-four. Not old, but old enough that friends and family are beginning to provide more occasions for funerals than for weddings. Old enough to love life for what it is. Old enough to see that it has meaning, even while seeing that it has less than I might wish. I am an analytic philosopher. Analytic philosophers are trained to spot weaknesses in arguments. Unfortunately, that sort of training does not prepare us for questions about life’s meaning. A perfect argument, Robert Nozick suggests in jest, would leave readers with no choice but to agree with the conclusion.1 When we think about life’s meaning, though, we are not trying to win a debate. Success in grappling with the question is less like articulating and defending a position and more like growing up.2 Perhaps that is why academics have written so little on the meaning of life, despite it being arguably the central topic of philosophy.3 Speaking to analytic philosophers about life’s meaning would be like stepping into a boxing ring in search of a dance partner. Or so we fear. Perhaps there is no excuse for venturing into an area where we cannot meet our usual standards. More likely, one way of respecting philosophical standards is by not trying to apply them when they are not apt, thus refusing to let them become a straitjacket—a caricature of intellectual rigor. So, I do not here seek the kind of argumentative closure that we normally think of as the hallmark of success in analytic philosophy.. (shrink)
I shall argue that the way people in relatively affluent countries react to a situation like that in Bengal cannot be justified; indeed, the whole way we look at moral issues—our moral conceptual scheme—needs to be altered, and with it, the way of life that has come to be taken for granted in our society.
Species egalitarianism is the view that all living things have equal moral standing. To have moral standing is, at a minimum, to command respect, to be more than a mere thing. Is there reason to believe that all living things have moral standing in even this most minimal sense? If so?that is, if all living things command respect?is there reason to believe they all command equal respect?1 I explain why members of other species command our respect but also why they (...) do not command equal respect. The intuition that we should have respect for nature is one motive for embracing species egalitarianism, but we need not be species egalitarians to have respect for nature. This paper questions whether species egalitarianism is even compatible with respect for nature. (shrink)
This volume collects thirteen of David Schmidtz's essays on the question of what it takes to live a good life, given that we live in a social and natural world. Part One defends a non-maximizing conception of rational choice, explains how even ultimate goals can be rationally chosen, defends the rationality of concern and regard for others (even to the point of being willing to die for a cause), and explains why decision theory is necessarily incomplete as a tool for (...) addressing such issues. Part Two uses the tools of analytic philosophy to explain what we can do to be deserving, what is wrong with the idea that we ought to do as much good as we can, why mutual aid is good, but why the welfare state does not work as a way of institutionalizing mutual aid, and why transferring wealth from those who need it less to those who need it more can be a bad idea even from a utilitarian perspective. Most ambitiously, Part Two offers an overarching, pluralistic moral theory that defines the nature and limits of our obligations to each other and to our individual selves. Part Three discusses the history and economic logic of alternative property institutions, both private and communal, and explains why economic logic is an indispensable tool in the field of environmental conflict resolution. In the final essay, Schmidtz brings the volume full circle by considering the nature and limits of our obligations to nonhuman species, and how the status of nonhuman species ought to enter into our deliberations about what sort of life is worth living. (shrink)
Reasonable people disagree about what is just. Why? This itself is an item over which reasonable people disagree. Our analyses of justice (like our analyses of knowledge, free will, meaning, etc.) all have counterexamples. Why? In part, the problem lies in the nature of theorizing itself. A truism in philosophy of science: for any set of data, an infinite number of theories will fit the facts. So, even if we agree on particular cases, we still, in all likelihood, disagree on (...) how to pull those judgments together to form a theory. Theorizing per se does not produce consensus. Why not? An argument is sound or not. So why isn’t a theory compelling to all of us, if sound, or none of us, if not? (shrink)
What is justice? Questions of justice are questions about what people are due, but what that means in practice depends on context. Depending on context, the formal question of what people are due is answered by principles of desert, reciprocity, equality, or need. Justice, thus, is a constellation of elements that exhibit a degree of integration and unity, but the integrity of justice is limited, in a way that is akin to the integrity of a neighborhood rather than that of (...) a building. A theory of justice is a map of that neighborhood. (shrink)
This essay compares Rawls's and Nozick's theories of justice. Nozick thinks patterned principles of justice are false, and offers a historical alternative. Along the way, Nozick accepts Rawls's claim that the natural distribution of talent is morally arbitrary, but denies that there is any short step from this premise to any conclusion that the natural distribution is unjust. Nozick also agrees with Rawls on the core idea of natural rights liberalism: namely, that we are separate persons. However, Rawls and Nozick (...) interpret that idea in different ways-momentously different ways. The tension between their interpretations is among the forces shaping political philosophy to this day. Footnotesa For comments, I thank Alyssa Bernstein, Geoffrey Brennan, Jason Brennan, Tom Christiano, Andrew I. Cohen, Andrew Jason Cohen, Tyler Cowen, Teresa Donovan, David Estlund, Jerry Gaus, Allen Habib, Alex Kaufman, Mark LeBar, Loren Lomasky (especially Loren, for insight and inspiration over a period of many years), Cara Nine, Ellen Frankel Paul, Guido Pincione, Thomas Pogge, Dan Russell, Michael Smith, Horacio Spector, and Matt Zwolinski. I thank the Earhart Foundation for financial support in the fall of 2002 and Australian National University's Research School of Social Sciences for its wonderful hospitality during a ten week stay in 2002. The support of the folks at Liberty Fund in Indianapolis during the final stages of this project goes beyond anything I will ever be able properly to thank them for. (shrink)
Samuel Scheffler says, “none of the most prominent contemporary versions of philosophical liberalism assigns a significant role to desert at the level of fundamental principle.” To the extent that this is true, the most prominent contemporary versions of philosophical liberalism are mistaken. In particular, there is an aspect of what we do to make ourselves deserving that, although it has not been discussed in the literature, plays a central role in everyday moral life, and for good reason. As with desert, (...) reciprocity inspires skepticism. What Allen Buchanan calls justice as reciprocity implies that duties of justice obtain only among those who can do each other favors. So characterized, justice as reciprocity is at best only a part of justice – a part that is silent on duties between people who have no favors to offer each other. Still, the more modest root idea of reciprocity – the idea that returning favors is at very least a good thing – remains compelling. What can we say on behalf of this root idea? This article is part of a larger work on the elements of justice. Both parts of it begin with and build on James Rachels’ seminal paper “What People Deserve.”. (shrink)
Both utilitarian and deontological moral theories locate the source of our moral beliefs in the wrong sorts of considerations. One way this failure manifests itself, we argue, is in the ways these theories analyze the proper human relationship toward the non-human environment. Another, more notorious, manifestation of this failure is found in Derek Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion. Our goal is to explore the connection between these two failures, and to suggest that they are failures of act-centered moral theories in general. As (...) such, they cannot be fixed by simply developing a better version of such a theory. Virtue-based theories, we suggest, provide a more promising alternative. (shrink)
Featuring sixty-two accessible selections--from classic articles to examples of cutting-edge original research--Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters, What Really Works addresses both of the principal areas of inquiry in the field: the exploration of morality from an environmental perspective and the analysis of the current state of our environment. Aiming to determine what issues really matter, the first section of the book responds to such questions as: What is value? What types of things have value? Is the value of a human (...) being fundamentally different from the kind of value we find elsewhere in nature? What role do consumer goods and services play in a good life? and Is there room for environmental consciousness in a good life? The second section turns to the question of what it would take to solve our environmental problems. It strives to go beyond the "hype" to present informed perspectives on the true nature of those problems and investigates important questions like: What is causing or exacerbating these problems? and What solutions have been tried? The selections present philosophical, biological, and social scientific approaches to the major issues. Environmental Ethics features first-hand descriptions from people who have actually been involved in such projects as wildlife management in Africa, ecofeminist initiatives in India, and radical activism on the high seas. It also provides up-to-date data on population issues and community-based wildlife initiatives. Ideal for undergraduate courses in environmental ethics, environmental issues, and applied ethics, this unique text will also be a helpful resource for graduate students and professors, as it retains most of the footnotes from the original articles. (shrink)
People ought to get what they deserve. And what we deserve can depend on effort, performance, or on excelling in competition, even when excellence is partly a function of our natural gifts. Or so most people believe. Philosophers sometimes say otherwise. At least since Karl Marx complained about capitalist society extracting surplus value from workers, thereby failing to give workers what they deserve, classical liberal philosophers have worried that to treat justice as a matter of what people deserve is to (...) license interference with liberty. Rawls likewise rejected patterns imposed by principles of desert, calling it “one of the fixed points of our considered judgments that no one deserves his place in the distribution of natural endowments, any more than one deserves one’s initial starting place in society. The assertion that a man deserves the superior character that enables him to make the effort to cultivate his abilities is equally problematic; for his character depends in large part upon fortunate family and social circumstances for which he can claim no credit. The notion of desert seems not to apply to these cases.” Rawls’s view is, in a way, compelling. Inevitably, our efforts are aided by natural gifts, positional advantages, and sheer luck, so how much can we deserve? And if our very characters result from an interplay of these same factors, how can we (capitalists and proletariat workers alike) deserve anything at all? Samuel Scheffler says, “none of the most prominent contemporary versions of philosophical liberalism assigns a significant role to desert at the level of fundamental principle.” If so, I argue, the most prominent contemporary versions of philosophical liberalism are mistaken. In particular, there is an aspect of what we do to make ourselves deserving that, although it has not been discussed in the literature, plays a central role in everyday moral life, and for good reason. (shrink)
This is an introductory volume to Robert Nozick, one of the dominant philosophical thinkers of the current age. It is part of a new series, Contemporary Philosophy in Focus. Each volume in the series will consist of newly commissioned essays that will cover all the major contributions of a preeminent philosopher in a systematic and accessible manner. Robert Nozick is one of the most creative and individual philosophical voices of the last 25 years. His most famous book, Anarchy, State and (...) Utopia (1974), presents the classic defense of the libertarian view that only a minimal state is just. Nozick has also made significant contributions in later publications to such areas as rational choice theory, ethics, epistemology and philosophy of mind. Outside philosophy the book will be of particular interest to professionals and students in political science, law, economics, sociology and psychology. (shrink)
What next? We are forever making decisions. Typically, when unsure, we try to identify, then compare, our options. We weigh pros and cons. Occasionally, we make the weighing explicit, listing pros and cons and assigning numerical weights. What could be wrong with that? In fact, things sometimes go terribly wrong. This paper considers what cost-benefit analysis can do, and also what it cannot.
Sometimes people act contrary to environmentalist values because they reject those values. This is one kind of conflict: conflict in values. There is another kind of conflict in which people act contrary to environmentalist values even though they embrace those values: because they cannot afford to act in accordance with them. Conflict in priorities occurs not because people’s values are in conflict, but rather because people’s immediate needs are in conflict. Conflict in priorities is not only an environmental conflict, but (...) also often an economic conflict—a conflict rooted in differing economic circumstance. Such a conflict cannot be resolved as an environmental conflict unless it is also resolved as an economic one. (shrink)
According to conservationism, scarce and precious resources should be conserved and used wisely. According to preservation ethics, we should not think of wilderness as merely a resource. Wilderness commands reverence in a way mere resources do not. Each philosophy, I argue, can fail by its own lights, because trying to put the principles of conservationism or preservationism into institutional practice can have results that are the opposite of what the respective philosophies tell us we ought to be trying to achieve. (...) For example, if the wisest use of South American rainforests is no use at all, then in that case conservationism by its own lights defers to preservationism. Analogously, if, when deprived of the option of preserving elephants as a resource, Africans respond by not preserving elephants at all, then in that case preservationism by its own lights defers to conservationism. (shrink)