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Nozick, Autonomy and Compensation by Dale F. Murray


Nozick, Autonomy and Compensation by Dale F. Murray

Famously and notoriously, Robert Nozick argues against the welfare state in Anarchy, State and Utopia. While many academics have severely criticized Nozick's notion of a minimal state, neo-conservatives and many ordinary citizens remain convinced by his arguments for limited government. Much has been made of Nozick's critique of the welfare state, yet few philosophers have examined his views on compensation and a meaningful life. Following a brief review of different notions of rights and freedoms, Dale Murray closely examines what Nozick means by compensation, and what injustices that he thinks it can rectify. He then offers a novel reconstruction of Nozick's libertarianism in the light of this analysis - as a possible approach for more positive rights. The book also explores Nozick's unique understanding of risk and his assessment of how we can calculate it. Using health care as a test case, Murray argues that since government-funded projects have tended to worsen people's health, the state should compensate individuals for their ill health. This compensation should come in the form of providing a minimal amount of health care to its citizens. Such welfare rights, however, are not as strong as some universal health care advocates would expect. Here, Murray brings a Nozickian focus to the rationing of care to the elderly. The elderly have the most tenuous claim to a right to health care since 'autonomy' arguments for welfare rights are the hardest to make for them.


Murray focuses on the most influential philosophical version of libertarianism, and the one that looks least promising for his case, Robert Nozick's. Murray has undertaken a careful and sparkling analysis both of Nozick's theory and of the positive right to healthcare. He makes a very powerful case. Anyone interested in the structure of libertarian thought, Nozick in particular, or the ethics of health policy, will have to read this book. Harry Brighouse, Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison

About the Author

Dale F. Murray is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Xavier University of Louisiana. His numerous publications include Liberalism, Art, and Funding, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 38, no 3, 2004.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th June 2007


Dale F. Murray

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Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


192 pages





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