Robert Nozick's Postition on Ethics

Robert Nozick
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The following will demonstrate how incommensurable, Robert Nozick's position on ethics is with utilitarianism. This paper will look at Nozick, and in turn, present a critique of his position. To understand the basis for in-commensurability, is to understand the two key philosophical approaches to moral decisions, namely, utilitarianism and Nozick's more ‘deontological’ oriented decision theory.


Thus, the main rule or the formula in terms of Mill’s utilitarian thesis is that we ought to act and make decisions on the basis that the greatest good for the greatest number is achieved. Conversely, the basic tenets of Nozick’s position on decision theory, runs as follows: Nozick argues that our decisions ought to pass a test which states that one should only will for themselves that which they were willing to have everyone else do. Phrased in other terms, we ought not to lie because we would not be living in a society where lying was manifest universally. This notion is the categorical imperative, and it is central in terms of the philosophical background for the problem of incommensurability. More importantly, it is a shift in emphasis that maintains that it is the consequences and not the intentions that matter. It will be argued that Nozick's position is incommesurable with utilitarianism on the grounds that his focus is on the consequences, and this is an extension of what he see's as the limitations of focusing on the 'intentions' of actions. Considering the consequences and the intentions of an ethical decision is incommensurable, and this is the core of Nozick's critique of utilitarianism. ...
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