Nozick's 'Non-Coercive' Autism

Reilly Jones (
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 06:00:34 -0500

Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick is fairly well-known to Extropians
through his books "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" (1974) (which Nozick has
since repudiated), "Philosophical Explanations" (1981), "The Examined Life:
Philosophical Meditations" (1989), and "The Nature of Rationality" (1993).
I thought about doing a review of "Rationality" at one time, but just
couldn't bring myself to do it, I couldn't take the book seriously enough.
It was filled with politically correct sops to the scientific left, it was
organized incoherently, and it tried to illegitimately slip in something
called "symbolic utility" into rational decision models. Nozick is a good
list maker, something he did a good bit of in "Rationality", "Examined
Life", and "Explanations", but not much of a thinker. Harvard has fallen
on hard times in its philosophy department, Nozick is no Santayana.

Anyway, Roger Kimball has written an essay about an Australian philosopher,
entitled "Who Was David Stove?" in "The New Criterion" March 1997, who
analytically ripped Nozick to pieces. I like this guy, Kimball says of
him, "Whatever the subject, he finds the tenderest spot of the most
sensitive nerve; then he presses."

>From David Stove's review of "Philosophical Explanations":

"An unprecedented expansion of communism took place immediately after the
second world war. For the next twenty-odd years, any possibility of
resistance to communist expansion depended almost entirely upon America:
no other country possessed both the requisite military capacity and the
willingness to use it. But the outcome of the Vietnam war showed that,
while America's capacity for such resistance remained intact, her
willingness did not. For that war was lost, not through defeat of American
armies in the field, nor yet through treachery among them, but through a
massive sedition at home. The nation showed that it had become utterly
opposed to any further armed resistance to communism."

An excellent summary of exactly what happened. The "massive sedition" was,
of course, what is sometimes referred to as "memetic engineering," fomented
by the Soviets through a well-funded disinformation campaign taking root
amongst the always left-leaning Western intellectuals and media types. The
KGB archives recently opened up have been a real eye opener into just how
thorough the penetration of our cultural elites was. The campaign was
helped along by the passive acceptance of scientific nihilism by Western
academia because scientific rationality was the only authority left on the
scene after the Enlightenment destroyed all notion of higher authority.

As a prime example of this seditious memetic engineering still with us
today, Stove examines Nozick's call for a "non-coercive philosophy," which
went so far in the utopian absolutist direction as to replace healthy
'arguments' with sickly 'explanations,' because it would be wrong "to get
someone to believe something whether he wants to believe it or not."
Sheesh! Why not just throw yourself in front of a bus and get it over

>From Stove's review again:

"The completeness of Nozick's composition is remarkable: he touches
somewhere in the book, however lightly, almost every note of American
decadence. Gandhi is there. The necessary deference to feminism is there.
The necessary reproof to 'racism' is there. Carlos Castaneda is there,
referred to as though he were a thinker, which he is not.... Drugs of
course are there, and in no unfavorable light: drugs may have their place,
Nozick thinks, in 'the treatment for philosophical parochialism.' Has he
left anything out? Is there anyone in post-Vietnam America who needs to be
placated, whom he has not placated? This was obviously a worry, and there
is a nervous catch-all reference to 'children's rights, the treatment of
animals, domination and ecological awareness.'"

Ugh, these wussies who slavishly toe the anointed's ideological line do not
have unqualified existence. Pah! The pulse may be there, but where's the
cognitive sparkle?

Stove again:

"...No ideal could be more destructive of human life than the ideal of
non-coerciveness. [The only way] of producing a non-coercive human being
is to produce an autistic one. But then, autism is really the conclusion
to which Nozick's conception of philosophy tends, just as it is the
conclusion to which American foreign policy in the same period has tended."

The First Commandment of the therapeutic welfare state is "Don't judge."
This shares the same culture of death memetic lineage with Nozick's
"non-coercion" absolutist philosophy. "Don't judge" is an axiom of
barbarism, Nozick's version of "non-coercion" is a philosophy of barbarism.

Miguel de Unamuno, in "Tragic Life", didn't refer to the conclusion of this
philosophy as autism, but his description of the consequences of its
practice amounts to the same thing:

"The most fruitful ethic is the ethic of mutual imposition. My endeavor
to impose myself upon another, to be and live in him and by him, to make
him mine, which is the same as making my self his, is what gives... meaning
to... human solidarity. The individual qua individual, the wretched
individual who lives a prey to the senses and to the instinct of
self-preservation, cares only about preserving himself, and his sole
concern is to keep others from forcing their way into his sphere, to keep
them from disturbing him, from interrupting his idleness; and in return for
their abstention, or for the sake of example, he refrains from forcing
himself upon them, from taking possession of them. 'Do not do unto others
what you would not have them do unto you,' he translates as: 'I do not
interfere with others. Let them not interfere with me.' And he shrinks
back, and pines and perishes in this rut of spiritual avarice, in the
slough of the repellent ethic... of each one for himself. And inasmuch as
each one is not himself alone, he can scarcely live for himself alone.
Sloth, it is said, is the mother of all vices..., while it professes to
preserve us by economizing our forces, in reality works toward lessening us
and reducing us to nothing. When spirit is in excess and man feels a
hunger for yet more of it, he pours his own spirit out and spreads it
abroad, and as it pours out it grows by contact with the spirits of others;
when, on the other hand, avarice takes hold, man withdraws into himself,
thinking thus to better preserve himself, and ends by losing everything,
like the man who was endowed with a single talent and buried it so as not
to lose it, only to find himself without it altogether."

This sloth, and this shrinking into oneself that Unamuno refers to, is
Stove's autism. Nozick's "non-coercion philosophy" is based on the same
twisted translation of the Golden Rule that Unamuno pointed out 76 years
earlier, 'I do not interfere with others. Let them not interfere with me.'
The premise is utterly false. Each individual interferes with other
living entities from the moment of conception onward. We all continuously
appropriate other entities' space, time, matter and energy without asking
permission. To not see this can only be accomplished by a wilful studied
ignorance of the unintended consequences of life processes, or
self-delusion. Such self-delusion is widespread in our compost-modern age,
arising from the false judgment that is the consequence of programs to
coerce consent from unsuspecting populations, as outlined in my "Critique"
in "Extropy" #17.

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology: | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'

"The will, the will not ever to die, the refusal to resign oneself to
death, ceaselessly builds the house of life while the keen blasts and icy
winds of reason unceasingly batter at the structure and beat it down." -
Miguel de Unamuno