Just Pursuits

ethics and economics.

Nozick on “Utopia”

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From Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). I found this passage incredibly inspiring.

The best of all possible worlds for me will not be that for you. The world, of all those I can imagine, which I would most prefer to live in, will not be precisely the one you would choose. Utopia, though, must be, in some restricted sense, the best for all of us; the best world imaginable, for each of us. In what sense can this be?

Imagine a possible world in which to live; this world need not contain everyone else now alive, and it may contain beings who have never actually lived. Every rational creature in this world you have imagined will have the same rights of imagining a possible world for himself to live in (in which all other rational inhabitants have the same imagining rights, and so on) as you have. The other inhabitants of the world you have imagined may choose to stay in the world which has been created for them (they have been created for) or they may choose to leave it an inhabit a world of their own imagining. If they choose to leave your world and live in another, your world is without them. You may choose to abandon your imagined world, now without its emigrants. This process goes on; worlds are created, people leave them, create new worlds, and so on.

Will this process go on indefinitely? Are all such worlds ephemeral or are there some stable worlds in which all of the original population will choose to remain?

If there are stable worlds, each of them satisfies one very desirable description by virtue of the way the worlds have been set up; namely, none of the inhabitants of the world can imagine an alternative world they would rather live in, which they believe would continue to exist if all of its rational inhabitants had the same rights of imagining and emigrating.

From no association will I be able to get something worth more to them than what I contribute is worth to them . . . No person will imagine a maximally appreciative world of inferior beings to whose existence he is crucial. No one will choose to be a queen bee.

Nor will a stable association consist of narcissistic persons competing for primacy along the same dimensions. Rather, it will contain a diversity of persons, with a diversity of excellences and talents, each benefiting from living with the others, each being of great use or delight to the others, complementing them. And each person prefers being surrounded by a galaxy of persons of diverse excellence and talent equal to his own to the alternative of being the only shining light in a pool of relative mediocrity. All admire each other’s individuality, basking in the full development in others of aspects and potentialities of themselves left relatively undeveloped.


Written by mikeikon

October 8, 2009 at 3:45 am

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