Eric Mack

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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The core prescriptive postulate of libertarianism is that individuals have strong moral claims to the peaceful enjoyment of their own persons and their own legitimate extra-personal possessions along with similarly strong claims to the fulfillment of their voluntary agreements with others. All (non-pacifist) libertarians take these moral claims to be so strong and salient that force and the threat of force may permissibly be employed to defend against and to rectify their infringement. On the other hand, only infringements of these core claims trigger the permissible use or threat of force. Other deployments of force or the threat of force are taken themselves to be violations of the moral claims asserted by the prescriptive postulate. This article presents a brief history of libertarian political philosophy, focusing on six hard-core libertarian theorists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Herbert Spencer, Lysander Spooner, Gustav de Molinari, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Robert Nozick.

Keywords: Herbert Spencer; libertarianism; moral claims; force; political philosophy; Lysander Spooner; Gustav de Molinari; Ayn Rand; Murray Rothbard; Robert Nozick

Article.  7826 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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