As one of our readers pointed out, November 16th is Robert Nozick's birthday. I had the good fortune to meet Robert Nozick at a Templeton sponsored two-week long seminar in Newport, RI, and in that context it was easy to juxtapose Nozick with other leading thinkers in legal and political philosophy and economics, political science and history. Nozick at the time had already been battling with cancer, but at the time was in remission (though the cancer would come back again over the next year and cut his life short). Nevertheless, he stood above the crowd with his quick and penetrating mind, and his argumentative abilities. Nozick knocked down one argument after another claiming that freedom was such a contested term that individualism and collectivism could be seen as consistent positions in the freedom philosophy. In conversations with Richard Tuck, Margaret Jane Radin, Michael Sandel, Jeremy Waldron, etc., Nozick was often dismissed as merely clever, until he entered the room then they all shrunked as the force of his arguments overwhelmed theirs. He also was particularly approachable during that seminar compared to the other superstars in attendence.
He even listened to me explain why when I teach Anarchy, State and Utopia I stress his "Austrianism" rather than the idea of "rights as trumps." I pointed out to him that his style of reasoning for 2/3rds of the books is that of the "invisible hand explanation" and that qualifies as a more Austrian or Hayekian style of argument than the rights based arguments that many others focus on in either their critique or their endorsement of Nozick.