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Nozick's Libertarian Critique of Regan

By Josh Milburn

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Robert Nozick’s oft-quoted review of Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights levels a range of challenges to Regan’s philosophy. Many commentators have focussed on Nozick’s putative defence of speciesism, but this has led to them overlooking other aspects of the critique. In this paper, I draw attention to two. First is Nozick’s criticism of Regan’s political theory, which is best understood relative to Nozick’s libertarianism. Nozick’s challenge invites the possibility of a libertarian account of animal rights – which is not as oxymoronic as it may first sound. Second is Nozick’s criticism of Regan’s axiological theory, which is best understood relative to Nozick’s own axiological inegalitarianism. While Nozick’s axiology has distasteful consequences, it should not be dismissed out-of-hand. Nozick’s challenges to Regan – and Nozick’s wider animal ethics – are rich and original, warranting attention from contemporary theorists for reasons beyond mere historical interest.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title Between the Species
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 26
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Josh Milburn (2019), "Nozick's Libertarian Critique of Regan,"

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  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Ethics
  4. open access
  5. Philosophy
  1. open access