Robert Nozick Virtual Reading Group

Applications to join the Robert Nozick Virtual Reading Group are now closed. Check back later for future reading groups.

The Virtual Reading group works like a Liberty Fund style symposium, in which participants are given a list of readings and are then given the opportunity to share their own thoughts on the readings with each other. The readings all pertain to the intellectual underpinnings of a free society, and this new reading group will include readings from famous challenges to libertarian intellectual thought. The group consists of 15-20 highly motivated, intellectually minded, and interested students who will be given the opportunity to share their thoughts

with each other, SFL leaders, and Professor Zwolinski. The group will meet online every two weeks on Monday evenings for approximately two hours. During these two hours, Professor Zwolinski will moderate a queue in a Liberty Fund style discussion, in which students may share their thoughts, challenges, and questions about the readings. Using GoToWebinar, Students For Liberty organizers guarantee that all participants have an opportunity to experience this fast-paced and rewarding atmosphere without the hassle of traveling to a central location.

Nozick’s Anachy, State and Utopiafirst published in 1977, is the libertarian response to Nozick’s Harvard colleague, John Rawls, with whom Nozick debated over the role of the state in society. Nozick moves from the classic Lockean state of nature to the most minimal state which is morally justifiable. He also takes on Rawls’ distributive justice and offers his own theory of entitlement. Readings will be split into 8 weeks and will cover Nozick, G.A. Cohen, and readings from The Cambridge Companion to Nozick.

Students accepted into the program will receive their own free copy of Anarchy, State and Utopia and will receive virtual copies of additional readings.

Professor Zwolinski is an associate professor of philosophy and is the co-director of the Institute for Law at the University of San Diego. He is also the founder of the popular and acclaimed Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog. Zwolinski also moderated Students For Liberty’s inaugural Virtual Reading Group on Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.

Questions should be sent to Zachary Slayback at zslayback@studentsforliberty.org.


A tentative syllabus is as follows:

  • Session One – Introduction, State of Nature Theory

Nozick Chapters 1-2 (pp. 3-25) 

  • Session Two – Side Constraints

Nozick Chapter 3 (pp. 26-53)

Richard Arneson, “Side Constraints, Lockean Individual Rights, and the Moral Basis of Libertarianism” (pp. 15-3) 

  • Session Three – Nozick on Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk

Nozick Chapter 4 (pp. 54-87)  

  • Session Four – Nozick’s Argument for the Minimal State

Nozick Chapter 5 (pp. 88-119)

Eric Mack, “Nozickian Arguments for the More-Than-Minimal State” (pp. 89-115) 

  • Session Five – Nozick’s Theory of Distributive Justice

Nozick Chapter 7 (pp. 149-182)

G.A. Cohen, “Robert Nozick and Wilt Chamberlain: how patterns preserve liberty” (pp. 19-37) 

  • Session Six – Nozick’s Critique of Rawls

Nozick Chapter 7 (pp. 183-231) 

  • Session Seven – Bits and Pieces

Nozick Chapter 8-9 (pp. 232-294) 

  • Session Eight – Nozick’s Utopia

Nozick Chapter 10-11 (pp. 297-334)

Ralf Bader, “The Framework for Utopia” (pp. 255-288)