Philosophy of Robert Nozick - Philosophy Essay Example

Philosophy of Robert Nozick



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Ranging from analytical philosophy to political theory, Nozick’s works of philosophy are one the most credible ones of pour times. In one of his books, ‘the explained life’, he dwells upon in detail into the meaning and true context of life. His works present an in-depth view into how we perceive our worlds, and how is it really present in its true sense. Though one may argue that it is essentially a relative term, yet by undergoing his writings, one is compelled to search for the simple, basic truth behind life.

Throughout his writings, his hallmark has been that he produces tantalizing notions and arguments, and ultimately leaves the decision at the hands of the reader. This is characteristic of a true philosophical mind, as the purpose of any intellectual writing involving insight is to trigger the minds of people. It is not merely a formula that needs to be validated, but actually a concept that needs further introspection, and in-depth analysis. Fortunately, Nozick is one such writer who affords us the opportunity to question the facts, and present them in manner that we normally do not conceive.

Hereunder is a review of three major issues covered in this piece of writing by the author, namely: being more real, value and meaning, and wisdom. These opinions of his, give a lot of perspective to the reader, and allow us to not only question the life and facts around us, but also the mere purpose of life itself. Deliberating into his theories would provide insightful answers to all, and would also help one in defining the vector for future course of action. It is believed that his works are a classic representation of the internalization of the modern man.

Being More Real

Nozick observes that, “A significant life is, in some sense, permanent; it makes a permanent difference to the world – it leaves traces.” This is a very significant stance adopted by Nozick; he believes that the true essence of a ‘significant’ life entails leaving a mark behind. For starters, this tells us that those who do not leave a trail behind have not lived an important life – which means that a good 99 % of the unknown humanity who has lived and died through the millennia have actually wasted their time! In all honestly, though his argument seems honest and innocent, but it is a very staunch stance against the entire mankind.

Further, the debate arises of who actually decides what is significant? May be one can feel that the way one reciprocates the stimuli of life is the real thing; somebody else might think an act of virtue is the real thing; and others still might consider that saving someone’s life is the most important thing. All combined, Nozick’s argument makes sense for its intention, but not much for its practicality. Being able to appreciate the ‘real’ from the ‘more real’ is not only a difficult task, but an ambiguous one.

In addition, he believes, “A puzzle how so many people, including intellectuals and academics, devote enormous energy to work in which nothing of themselves or their important goals shines forth, not even in the way their work is presented. If they were struck down, their children upon growing up and examining their work would never know why they had done it, would never know who it was that did it.” So once again we see him giving emphasis upon how the facts that are present in our lives are related directly top our lives. Subsequently, he wishes that they should all be represented in the same letter and spirit – something which seems humanly impossible.

Value and Meaning

These are two significant terms that are knitted together intelligibly by Nozick. He elaborates, “The young live in each of the futures open to them. The poignancy of growing older does not lie in one’s particular path being less satisfying or good than it promised earlier to be – the path may turn out to be all one thought. It lies in traveling only one (or two, or three) of those paths.” He is basically emphasizing the fact that no matter what path are we adopting in life, what is more important is how we about it. The true value and meaning of life would hence be available to any pure soul, who would believe in what he does, and actualizes with oneself for the attainment of the same.

He observes that “We camouflage our vulnerability with jokes about seeking for the meaning or purpose of life.” Basically, he is against a shallow disposition upon life, and he wishes and advises others to undertake a view upon themselves wherein they can at least reach down to the depth of their personalities, if not of others. This, he believes, is very important as this gives people true meaning to what they are, and appropriate for the things they stand for.

Nozick advocates that death has a direct relation with the meaning we give to life, “If life were to go on forever, would there then be no problem about its meaning?” this is another original concept that he gives, whereby explaining through rhetoric that no matter for how long we are here doing whatever we deem appropriate; what is most important is that we should internalize the reality around us, so that we can establish the real living grounds for our lives. Being able to appreciate the true meaning of life is essential to every moment that is pent in our lives. Without this understanding, we are just passing time and not really living.


According to Nozick, “wisdom is not just knowing fundamental truths, if these are unconnected with the guidance of life or with a perspective on its meaning.” This one line entails the entire philosophy which he webs around the concept of wisdom. He primarily establishes the domain of wisdom around two prongs: firstly, it is about knowing or discovering the true facts that re related to any issue; secondly, it is about relating these to the context pf life that one has. This is extremely interesting because he ironically ends up making the concept of wisdom as subjective.

Although on a personal, mental and emotional note, what he has declared is very good and perhaps necessary for the context of self-actualization, however when one endeavors into relating the facts to one’s own reality, the end result is far from similar. True, the perspective upon the meaning of issues is mandatory for correct perception of reality, but this is where all the distortion takes place. If one would take 2 + 2 = 4 as a mathematical reality and deal wit the fact as it is, then it can be rendered as an objective disposition. However, when this factor is to be linked with personal perceptions of life and reality, ten this small mathematical fact turns into simulations of desires, dreams and fears.

He further adds, “if the deep truths physicists describe about the origin and functioning of the universe have little practical import and do not change our picture of the meaning of the universe and our place within it, then knowing them would not count as wisdom.” This again is the reiteration if the fact that the meaning of science and facts should be extrapolated upon our own lives., whatever reality we come across, it ceases to exist unless we correlate with a factual condition that lies within us. Differently put, he is recommending a scientific method of introspection wherein all our inner thoughts are validated in relation to the truth present outside.

Personal Reflection

Concepts presented by Nozick in his book give plenty of food for thought for the thinking mind. He shows a way, wherein we may well help understand what is the true perspective of life and ultimately tread a path which is much more rewarding, successful and satisfying. This is not merely in the context of materialistic gain, but in the context of internal and spiritual gain. After all, one should be able to appreciate the grand design and the purpose that we are to fulfill in the lives that we have.

Being more real presents a very interesting argument to ponder; if one has to be more real, then it should also be possible top be less real! What exactly could the characteristics of this condition be, can be a very potent question. Firstly, one would have to draw a line of what id definitive reality. Then one can step on either side of by saying that he is more and/or less real. This seems an ambiguous exercise, and in factual reality, is very much so. The fact of the matter is, that reality is not a physical quantity that can be measured in terms of more or less. It is a form of condition that is there, in all its entirety, at all times. Now whether we choose to be shallow, fake or honest, is a matter of choice and preference. But the context of reality will always be the same. After all, if somebody is trying to evade something, then it has to be something for it to be evaded!

Again, concepts of value and meaning provide more questions than they give answers. Whatever one may consider being important, is a very relative term. There is not and possibly cannot be a measure of the physical quantity of relativity that we have towards the concept of life. Nozick believes that meanings and values towards life are supposed to be relative, regardless of what the path we choose for ourselves. This in turn tells us that people are independent to whatever orientation they wish to have for life. Extrapolating upon this, one is able to appreciate that one should not really go by the meanings and definitions that people give to us – rather, we should formulate our own purpose and meaning towards life. This focus shall be a direct derivative of the type of values we possess and seek; which again is a relative term.

As far as his concepts on wisdom are concerned, the reality is always relative. Appreciating the facts of life in the context I which we see life is an ideal concept, because it will help adding us with the true path that we are supposed to walk. However, this is easier said than done, the fact of the matter is, that this relationship shall not only be different for every single person, but even for the same person it will yield different results in different parts of his life. This is not only due to the reality that our personalities are dynamically dissimilar, but also because out definition and orientation of reality keeps changing with time. Having a thinking mind of course has its side effects – this one being that one cannot have a stable disposition of opinion at all times.

In all, one needs to appreciate the endeavor put in by Nozick; not as much in writing the script, but actually in providing the readers and opportunity to detach themselves from the materialistic reality for a moment, and help understand what is the true meaning of their lives. Though he only gives indications and no definitive answers, yet it provides one ample room for introspection, helping to understand what is the true meaning of life; as explained by Robert Nozick.

References (2006). Robert Nozick. 26 May, 2006. <>.

Nozick, R. (1989). The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Schmidtz, D. (2002). Robert Nozick. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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