Two Tuesday Quotes: Rawls and Nozick

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday but it occurred to me late last night how much I missed doing this. Now that I’m reading more often the exposure to thinkers, and their quotes, has been expanded. Surely I should go back and make sure I’m not duplicating any thinkers. But then again, maybe it’s better to start blind. The lazy in me concurs with the latter.

John Rawls

In constant pursuit of money to finance campaigns, the political system is simply unable to function. Its deliberative powers are paralyzed.

John Rawls (b. 1921, d. 2002) was an American political philosopher in the liberal tradition. His theory of justice as fairness envisions a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights cooperating within an egalitarian economic system. His account of political liberalism addresses the legitimate use of political power in a democracy, aiming to show how enduring unity may be achieved despite the diversity of worldviews that free institutions allow. His writings on the law of peoples extend these theories to liberal foreign policy, with the goal of imagining how a peaceful and tolerant international order might be possible.

Rawls was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a prominent lawyer, his mother a chapter president of the League of Women Voters. Rawls studied at Princeton, where he was influenced by Wittgenstein’s student Norman Malcolm; and at Oxford, where he worked with H. L. A. Hart, Isaiah Berlin, and Stuart Hampshire. His first professorial appointments were at Cornell and MIT. In 1962 Rawls joined the faculty at Harvard, where he taught for more than thirty years.

Rawls’s adult life was a scholarly one: its major events occurred within his writings. The exceptions were two wars. As a college student Rawls wrote an intensely religious senior thesis (BI) and had considered studying for the priesthood. Yet Rawls lost his Christian faith as an infantryman in World War II on seeing the capriciousness of death in combat and learning of the horrors of the Holocaust. Then in the 1960s Rawls spoke out against America’s military actions in Vietnam. The Vietnam conflict impelled Rawls to analyze the defects in the American political system that led it to prosecute so ruthlessly what he saw as an unjust war, and to consider how citizens could conscientiously resist their government’s aggressive policies.

Rawls’s most discussed work is his theory of a just liberal society, called justice as fairness. Rawls first set out justice as fairness in systematic detail in his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice. Rawls continued to rework justice as fairness throughout his life, restating the theory in Political Liberalism (1993), The Law of Peoples (1999), and Justice as Fairness (2001). Students wanting a clear guide to A Theory of Justice may wish to read Lovett (2011), or (more advanced) Mandle (2009). Those interested in the evolution of justice as fairness from 1971 onwards should consult Freeman (2007) and Weithman (2011). This entry reflects Rawls’s final statement of his views on justice as fairness, as well as on political liberalism and on the law of peoples. (source)


Robert Nozick

Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do. How much room do individual rights leave for the state?

Robert Nozick (1938–2002) was a renowned American philosopher who first came to be widely known through his 1974 book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974),[1] which won the National Book Award for Philosophy and Religion in 1975. Pressing further the anti-consequentialist aspects of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, Nozick argued that respect for individual rights is the key standard for assessing state action and, hence, that the only legitimate state is a minimal state that restricts its activities to the protection of the rights of life, liberty, property, and contract. Despite his highly acclaimed work in many other fields of philosophy, Nozick remained best known for the libertarian doctrine advanced in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Robert Nozick was born in Brooklyn in 1938 to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. He earned an undergraduate Philosophy degree from Columbia University in 1959 and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1963. He taught for a couple of years at Princeton, Harvard, and Rockefeller Universities before moving permanently to Harvard in 1969. He became widely known through his 1974 book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which shocked the philosophical world with its robust and sophisticated defense of the minimal state—the state that restricts its activities to the protection of individual rights of life, liberty, property, and contract and eschews the use of state power to redistribute income, to make people moral, or to protect people from harming themselves. Nozick went on to publish important works that ranged over metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, and axiology—Philosophical Explanations (1981), The Examined Life(1989), The Nature of Rationality (1993), Socratic Puzzles (1997), and Invariances (2001). Nozick’s always lively, engaging, audacious, and philosophically ambitious writings revealed an amazing knowledge of advanced work in many disciplines including decision theory, economics, mathematics, physics, psychology, and religion. Robert Nozick died in 2002 from stomach cancer for which he was first treated in 1994.

As an undergraduate student at Columbia and at least in his early days as a graduate student at Princeton, Nozick endorsed socialism. At Columbia, he was a founder of what was to become the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. The major force in his conversion to libertarian views was his conversations at Princeton with his fellow philosophy graduate student, Bruce Goldberg. It was through Goldberg that Nozick met the economist Murray Rothbard who was the major champion of “individualist anarchism” in the later decades of the twentieth century (Raico 2002, Other Internet Resources). Nozick’s encounter with Rothbard and Rothbard’s rights-based critique of the state (Rothbard 1973 and 1978)—including the minimal state—lead Nozick to the project of formulating a rights-based libertarianism that would vindicate the minimal state. There is, however, an intriguing lacuna in this story. Goldberg himself and the economists whose writings are often said to have influenced Nozick’s conversion to libertarianism—F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman—were not at all friends of natural rights theory. So, we have no account of why the libertarianism that Nozick himself adopted came in the form of natural rights theory (and an associated doctrine of acquired property rights). (source)

Two Tuesday Quotes: Kennedy and Leland

There is plenty of room on this one-and-only livable planet for all cultures to co-exist on a basis of equality, mutual respect, fair-play, self-determination, and non-interference. It has to be that, or nothing.

Stetson Kennedy

The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.

John Leland

Learn more about these men after the break.

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Two Tuesday Quotes: MacKaye and Clarke

But unlike the railway the trailway must preserve (and develop) a certain environment. Otherwise its whole point is lost. The railway “opens up” a country as a site for civilization; the trailway should “open up” a country as an escape from civilization…The path of the trailway should be as “pathless” as possible; it should be the minimum consistent with practical accessibility.

Benton MacKaye, founding meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March 2-3, 1925

In few regions of the world, certainly nowhere else in the United States, are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California. The Pacific Crest Trailway is the cord that binds this necklace.

Clinton Clarke

Discover a bit more about these men below.

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Two Tuesday Quotes: Stephen Jepson

Sometimes you are presented with something that puts existence into proper focus. For many this discloses itself through their religion, nature or a general rational philosophy. Inevitably the wave flows through a person or people. A friend on Facebook shared this video of Stephen Jepson and it reminded me of how personal originality and self-confidence afford us what I consider a revolution of self. This mindful defiance serves to instill hope and happiness for no other reason than to celebrate life.

No reward. No fear. No contingencies. He gets it.

Two Tuesday Quotes: Avett and Been

Courtesy of Vanity Fair

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

Courtesy of The-Call-Band

Well they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They’d all been warned
But the walls came down
I don’t think there are any Russians
And there ain’t no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
playin’ with tanks

The Walls Came Down

Who are they?

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Two Tuesday Quotes: Muir and Krutch

A recent trip to Cedar Key, FL brought me face to face with John Muir. I was completely unaware of his impact on the Sunshine State, much less this small fishing (well, clamming) community that is Cedar Key. The historical marker at Cedar Key Museum State Park gives one a short explanation of the role John played and additional information can be found at the Florida State Parks site. His writings on Cedar Key can be found here. While visiting the park with my son he noted what I thought was an interesting point: “I don’t think John Muir would be happy with what the Sierra Club now does.” It prompted me to understand a bit more about who this man was and what he stood for in an effort to better appreciate my son’s perspective. Having been a member of the Sierra Club, reading their publications and listening to other members and critics I am not convinced my son is wrong.

As always I offer up this information for you to consider whether you agree or disagree. Regarding Mr. Krutch, I had never heard of him. His name popped up while researching Mr. Muir. The paths each man took to become involved in nature presented itself as mirror images to a certain degree.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir

If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.

Joseph Wood Krutch

Who they are

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