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Robert Nozick’s entitlement theory of justice: a critique

Osita Gregory Nnajiofor
Chinedu Stephen Ifeakor


The burden of this paper is to critique Robert Nozick’s entitlement theory of justice which was drafted as an argument against traditional distribution theories. Nozick’s theory of justice claims that whether a distribution is just or not depend entirely on how it came about. By contrast, justice according to equality, need, desert or Rawl’s Difference principle depends entirely on the “pattern” of distribution. He objected to these patterned distribution due to their deficiencies. To this he propounded the entitlement theory which is primarily concerned with respecting people’s rights, especially, their rights to property and their rights to self-ownership. Entitlement theory of justice involves three ideas; justice in acquisition, justice in transfer, and rectification of injustice. Most political philosophers rejected Nozick’s entitlement perspective, for its shaky foundation and lack of practical relevance. This paper therefore attempts to inquire into Nozick’s theory to highlight some of the percieved strenghts, defects, inconsistencies and hidden fallacies and to offer some remedial solutions where necessary. We then conclude that through affirmative action and his rectification criteria that his philosophy is still relevant in our contemporary world.