The futility of the theory. A note on Nozick

In the discussions of ideological a claim shared in the debate is that you can derive from first principles the positions on the specific issues that we have to solve. To illustrate and criticize this idea, in this entry we will focus on the work of Nozick, in Anarchy, State and Utopia, in the distant past of 1974, has developed some of the arguments best designed in defence of an ideological position (a liberalism that is pure in your case) of the last few decades.

The first thing to notice is that, as usual, Nozick does not defend both the liberalism as that gets the consequences of it if it develops in a pure form. The starting point is that people have rights, and that unless they agree in certain exchanges there is no reason around justice in order to compel them, it would be to take away their rights. Under the premises of Nozick, it is difficult to make, and it focuses a good part of the text, it is even able to think of to justify the very existence of the State -which by definition is an agency coercive. It is clear, and so explicit Nozick in the first pages of the text.

All of this operates in the range of pure theory: They take premises and deduce their consequences. Up here the reality has not appeared, mostly, which in principle is not so problematic for a pure theory of justice (that you can always say that to do justice even when the world is destroyed). You have deficiencies in both pure theory (as we saw, the starting point is what was being discussed), but in principle the absence of reality is not a problem.

One of the moments in which it appears the reality is in his discussion of the principles of retributive justice. They are the following:

If the world were completely fair, the following definitions inductive cover exhaustively the subject of justice on belongings.

1) A person who acquires a membership, in accordance with the principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to that membership.

2) A person who acquires a membership in accordance with the principle of justice in transfer, from someone else with the right membership, has a right to membership.

3) No one has a right to membership except by application (repeated) of 1 and 2. (Nozick, Part II, Chap VII, Sect 1, p 154)

Now, Nozick then begins to discuss the fact that not all distributions are fair (given that not all in the reality they follow those principles). There is violence, slavery, fraud etc, What do you do in that case? Well, there is such a thing as justice corrective. Nozick declares that there is no general theory about this, and not the will (two times in paragraphs in a row). That said, it happens to worry about topics of pure theory (in a society completely fair that goes with the justice of the distributions of effective, criticizing Rawls, etc)

It is interesting that you overlook this irruption of a real event. Because from that fact real well could end up proposing concrete policies is very far from the minimal state that defends Nozick. Let’s start with the fact that there is injustice in the world (i.and the actual distribution is not based on the principles above), something that the same Nozick declares. Ergo, there is a wide field of activity to justice corrective.

Moreover, let us recall that Nozick dixit, there is no general theory about it. We have No other than to apply the criterion, the practical reason; not merely pure principles. How to solve repair problems due to injustices past is not something that is simple deduction from first principles. The same with the problem as far as the effect of such injustices (does it affect subsequent exchanges?).

Then, there are no items that prohibit the outline of Nozick a strong corrective action against injustices (injustices understood in their schema, or when it does not comply with its principles). If we think that Nozick wrote his text in 1974, and that only in 1965, the whole fabric of the laws of Jim Crow were abolished, one might think that the effects of unjust of slavery in the united States had not been eliminated by the abolition of slavery, but were still recent (and then, could justify à la Nozick corrective action).

Further, suppose that one shows that there is a trend in any set of interactions to produce, even if he has instituted a world’s fair according to the principles of Nozick, interactions that do not comply with those principles -and then it is necessary to so perpetual and consistent principles of corrective justice. And we think that it might show that, according to how to make these interactions, these injustices are usually discovered ex-post, in such a way that its correction is not possible through legal actions of the individual.

From these considerations it would be possible to justify from the own principles of Nozick, a program that would substantiate a good part of the actions of the Welfare State. The point here is not the correctness of such considerations, but that all of them are of the nature of thumb-say relation to the processes and situations of the reality of social life. Show, then, what we wanted to say at the start: That the claims of pure theory are not sufficient to support concrete action. It is only the conjunction of that type of arguments and principles in certain situations and processes of the empirical which allows to assess anything.

By the way, while we have used Nozick in this entry, could do with anyone. Although it would be more complex, it is possible to defend a pro-capitalist to the current situation based on Marx (it is a thing to remember the progressive character of capitalism on formations, pre-Marx and give longer deadlines to the social processes that marxism analyzes). It is a general theme of what we are defending.

The claim only on the basis of considerations of first principles to determine what is just hic et nunc is a claim that is traditional in the modern way of thinking (because any time we criticize the same idea in the Critique of Practical Reason of Kant, link here). But it is insufficient, and in the end it is always required that action that requires discretion and judgment to gather various types of considerations (principles, empirical etc) has been called from old, at least since Aristotle, practical reason, and is defined, precisely, by not be possible to reduce it to a simple deduction from the general to the particular.

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