Friday, April 18, 2003

In response to this post by Jacob Levy ("Ah, to have been at Harvard in the 1970s, able to hear Rawls and Nozick and Sen," etc.), Brad DeLong says that he "never got much out of Nozick" in person. (This, I have to say, reminds me of the reverse snobbery one occasionally comes across -- the sort of person who purports to be above liking Beethoven or Shakespeare.) Anyway, Matthew Yglesias responds to DeLong as follows:
That's the exact reverse of my reactions twenty or so years later. I read Anarchy, State, and Utopia sophomore year and was underwhelmed. Then in the fall of my junior year I enrolled in Nozick's seminar on the philosophy of history and was almost immediately blown away by the man who was, quite simply, a lot smarter than anyone else I'd ever met. Not only was he brilliant with the quick arguments, but he also had an astounding range of interests and knowledge and managed to integrate into one course topics from political philosophy, Russian history, the philosophy of science, the counterfactual account of causation, and God knows what else.
I'll second Yglesias on this. For six weeks in 1998, I took Nozick's seminar on Philosophy and the Law. (Six weeks because he had to cancel the course at that point for health reasons.) He blew me away with his ability to think on the fly. And no matter how quickly he talked, you could tell that his brain was racing far ahead of his mouth. An amazing professorial presence.


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