Winner of the 1975 National Book Award, this brilliant and widely acclaimed book is a powerful philosophical challenge to the most widely held political and social positions of our age--liberal, socialist, and conservative.
Robert Nozick (1938-2002) was Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University. His early book in political theory, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, was very influential, and he followed it with Philosophical Explanations, The Examined Life, The Nature of Rationality, Socratic Puzzles, and Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World.
The night-watchman state of classical liberal theory, limited to the functions of protecting all its citizens against violence, theft, and fraud, and to the enforcement of contracts, and so on, appears to be redistributive.1 We can imagine at least one social arrangement intermediate between the scheme of private protective associations and the night-watchman state. Since the nightwatchman state is often called a minimal state, we shall call this other arrangement the ultraminimal state. An ultraminimal state maintains a monopoly over all (...) use of force except that necessary in immediate selfdefence, and so excludes private (or agency) retaliation for wrong and exaction of compensation; but it provides protection and enforcement services only to those who purchase its protection and enforcement policie., People who don't buy a protection contract from the monopoly don't get protected. The minimal (night-watchman) state is equivalent to the ultraminimal state conjoined with a (clearly redistributive) Friedmanesque voucher plan, financed from tax revenues.2 Under this plan all people, or some (for example, those in need), are given tax-funded vouchers that can be used only for their purchase of a protection policy from the ultraminimal state. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.