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PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Charity Obligations - Nozick

Robert Nozick also seems to think that we are never morally required to help others.

Helping is a nice thing to do and sometimes failing to help can be selfish or heartless, but we do not have an obligation to help. Nozick is a right libertarian. He thinks that we are required not to interfere with others, but we are not required to aid them. This is because each person’s body belongs to her and to force them to use it to help others undermines this self-ownership.

Nozick’s “rugged individual” or “John Wayne type” was a person who preferred to be left alone without requirements to help others or expectations of receiving help from others.

But even if you are currently a rugged individual, do you think you would still hold this position if you got sick or injured? What if it was someone in your family who needed help from a stranger?

For more on this topic, you might read Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, Peter Unger, Living High and Letting Die, or (Southampton’s own) Fiona Woollard, Doing and Allowing Harm, Chapters 7 & 8. 
At Southampton, we run various modules that address these and similar issues: Ethics, Political Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, and Action, Reason, and Ethics. Many of our staff undertake research in this area, including Dr. Alex Gregory, Dr. Sasha Mudd, Dr. Jonathan Way and Dr. Fiona Woollard.


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