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The Old Woman As Meta-Question: A Religionist's Reflections on Nozick's View of the State

Eugene B. Borowitz
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Vol. 44, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 503-515
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1462821
Page Count: 13
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The Old Woman As Meta-Question: A Religionist's Reflections on Nozick's View of the State
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Abstract

The relationship between religion, specifically theology or philosophy of religion and analytic philosophy is here explored in terms of a recent compelling example of the latter discipline. Nozick's theory of the state has significant moral consequences. Thus, though it does not directly deal with religion, it may be taken as an illuminating example of how the use of the analytic method may lead to fundamental and irreconcilable conflicts with philosophizing which proceeds from religious premises. The work of John Rawls is utilized to point up the methodological issue since Rawls is much on Nozick's mind. In Rawls the content of the philosophy is much more acceptable to a biblical view but is, by the rational standards employed by Rawls and Nozick, not warranted. By contrast a specific real case, that of a senile old lady, is used to point up the fundamental commitments of the biblical religionist which lead him, in the author's case, to find Nozick's logically developed position untenable. In the face of admittedly distrubing consequences Nozick changes his ethics. Yet the reason for his conclusions, his rigorous development being accepted, was his premise which was only methodologically validated. The author contends that analytic philosophers not uncommonly make the jump from methodologically taken assumptions to reality claims and wonders why, for example, rather than changing his ethics Nozick does not change his premise. This turns out to be a matter of difficulty of inter-meta-stance discussions and an affirmation of certain biblical, analytically unacceptable premises even if these are philosophically deplored as mere fideism.

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