Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Nozick and the Essential Contradiction of the Idea of "Individual Rights"

Pic isn't really that related, but seems to be on the surface level.

What makes an individual if his rights are given by the state? Is this really radical individualism? Even it more individualist if there were no government at all and everyone would either have to live and fight, or cower and die? In this sense, isn't the idea of indivualism be completely contradictory to the notion of rights? How can people be individuals if their rights are given and ensured by an external force? Conversely, how can people have rights, if everyone are truly individual and uphold their own livelihood and future with nothing but their own power, which in the process may stop other people from being able to do the same?

Case in point "the only rights of which we can legitimately speak are the inalienable (natural) rights of the individual which are independent of society which include, above all, the right to pursue one's own ends so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others." (Held 2006 pg 202)

Unless he meant traditional rights, how the heck are the natural rights "inalienable" and "independent" when you can't "interfere with the rights of others"?! Just what does he think individual and society mean?!!

But why are contradicting statements such a good description of our world?! Why is everything that we see and do essentially a contradiction?!!

"Ownership of property and the appropriation of of the fruits of one's labour are fully justified if all that is acquired is justly acquired originally originally and/or the result of open and voluntary transaction between mature and knowledgeable individuals." (Held 2006 pg202)

How is the right to ownership and property "inalienable (natural) rights of the individual which are independent of society" when it HAS TO BE "justly [ACQUIRED]" OR HAS TO BE OBTAINED THOUGH ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL?!!

When will we wake up and realize that individualism as a concept is nothing but a false and self contradicting concept that serves no other purpose other than allow and propel greed, self gain, and self righteousness? I'm not saying that this is right or wrong, as I am not God, but if this is indeed what human live for, WHY THE FUCK DO WE HAVE TO BE CONSTANTLY DENYING THIS FACT?!! IF THIS IS REALLY THE WAY HUMANS ARE MEANT TO LIVE, WHY DON'T WE JUST COME OUT AND ADMIT IT? To ourselves, to the world, to the whole philosophical spectrum, to the entire human race?!!! WHY can't we do that?!! *Edit: This is what it would be if I took away all the emotions, "Just how justified is the assumption that individual should be the basic unit of societies? Logically? What do we ultimately want? Are we more honest when we say we want world peace? When we say that we only want the best for ourselves? Could is it possible for man to really be able to justify this one way or another? " self contradiction, instead of lie, the root of all problems? Is contradiction the "original sin"?

Why are human so capable of not just living with, but BY contradictions?

Have a good day everyone... if you still can anyway.


  1. Excuse all the emotions in this post, but this is simply a very accurate reflection of what I thought about and how I felt as I read David Held's account of Nozick's political stance in the 3rd edition of his "Models of Democracy". Nevertheless, this really is my stance about liberalism in general and as you may see from the post, I am very frustrated at how the system functions! Everywhere I see, there are nothing but clear logical contradictions in a society built upon liberalism!

    Please do feel free to respond to my comment since I would really want to discuss this topic with someone who can hopefully challenge my view of liberalism.

  2. I don't have any answers, but thought I'd offer a slightly different critique of liberalism that hopefully will be of interest to you:

    The problem I have with classical liberalism in the line of Mills/Nozick is that they accept as unproblematic the notion of "consenting adults." The theory of justice that they propound is very much centered on the notion that all consenting adults are morally equal, and one need not make any concessions for another except through an act of voluntary choice (bounded by the flexible notion of "do no harm to others"). This is how you get to individualism the way you've described here.

    I don't believe that "consenting adults" as a concept is free from analytical doubt. It's a philosophical construct, not one based on reality. Much of liberalism seems to treat its own reasoning as pure logic and free from religious mysticism, but the foundation of this logic: the mystical "consenting adult", is every bit illusory as God. The contradictions you note may be inherent in the fact that "consenting adult" (or the "individual") is just an ideal, not something that exists in reality.

  3. @KYL

    That's a very interesting point you brought up about liberals treating the concept of "consenting adults" as if they can somehow when the two or more adults are debating, they are instantly transported to an imaginary land called "Neutral Land- Where All External Factors are Inconsequential!" Thanks for bringing this up since I never thought about it this way and this is at least addresses the contradiction in liberal's view of an individual.

    I would draw a conclusion from that and write a extrapolation, but I'm a bit tired at the moment... can't... think. Anyway, I'll write something else later and thanks for the response!

  4. If the concept of "consenting adults" cannot exist entirely separate from reality, doesn't this mean that this concept, rather than being a agent for creating fair and even grounds on which no one can take advantage of another, is rather a legitimated EXCUSE for those who are more capable or powerful to stomp on those who are less powerful?

    This concept of "consenting adults" is just like that theory of pluralism, isn't it? In the sense that it appear on the surface level to be a balancing mechanism, but rather is created with the true purpose of allowing those already with capital to legitimately use whatever means to obtain more capital and means of production and at the same time, creating a false sense of security for those without capital so they feel it is unnecessary to think for themselves?

    Godammnit, the more I study politics, the more I realize our reality is much worse off than I realized!