John Rawls

Edited by Shaun Young (University of Toronto, St. George Campus)
About this topic
Summary John Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher whose work has been referred to as “epoch-making” and “cataclysmic in its effect.” His theorizing was fundamentally animated by a desire to address the problem of political (in)justice in modern constitutional democracies. Rawls spent more than 50 years developing and refining a conception of justice that he believed could offer the type of governance framework necessary to manage the problem of political (in)justice effectively and, in so doing, provide for the realization of an acceptably just and stable liberal democracy.
Key works The following offer the most comprehensive articulations of Rawls' theory of justice as fairness: Rawls ms; and Rawls 1993. Rawls 1999 represents Rawls' effort to apply his theory of justice as fairness to the realm of international relations. With Rawls 2001 Rawls sought to provide an authoritative yet concise “restatement” of his conception of justice as fairness that effectively synthesizes the arguments presented in his previously published work. A wonderful compilations of Rawls' essays is contained in Rawls 1999.
Introductions Since Rawls’s death in 2002, there has arisen a veritable cottage industry dedicated to summarizing and analyzing his work and its past, present and future impact upon the disciplines of moral and political philosophy. Among the more accessible yet instructive are Pogge 2007; Freeman 2007; Lehning 2009; Graham 2006; and Talisse 2001
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  1. John Rawls: Two Concepts of Rules.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, 'Two Concepts of Rules', John Rawls draws a central distinction between justifying a practice and justifying a particular action falling under it. In this review, Leslie Allan walks through Rawls's essay, highlighting his key arguments for a strengthened version of rule utilitarianism and reflecting on the lasting influence of his analysis.
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  2. An Ancient Paradox Applied to the Difference Principle (with the Help of Cryptocurrencies).Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    John Rawls’s difference principle says that we should change our economy if doing so is better for the worst-off group, on the condition that certain basic rights are secured. This paper presents a kind of case that challenges the principle. If we modify the principle to cope with the challenge, we open the way to a Sorites paradox.
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  3. Nozick’s “Secret” Macro-Micro Objection to Rawls.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In a section of his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia entitled “Macro and Micro,” Nozick makes objections of a certain kind to Rawls. In this paper, I draw attention to a macro and micro objection that scattered material in that book entails.
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  4. An Alternative to Charitable Interpretation, with H.L.A. Hart.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Philosophers, and students of philosophy, are often advised to interpret other philosophers charitably. In this paper, I present an alternative to interpreting charitably. I call it “the simple-model technique” and use H.L.A. Hart responding to John Rawls to illustrate it.
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  5. On a Rawls Specialist’s Review of T.H. Irwin’s History of Western Ethics.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Should one read T.H. Irwin’s three volume history of Western ethics, or parts of it? Here one might turn to reviews. The journal The Philosophical Forum uses the sensible strategy of getting different specialists to review different parts of the book. There are two chapters on Rawls, each one reviewed by a Rawlsian. I wish to register discontent with Steven Ross’s review.
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  6. The Fallibility Objection to the Original Position.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Do individuals in John Rawls’s original position take into account the fallibility of human nature? Some notable commentators on Rawls say that they do or that they should. But this enables us to say that individuals in the original position would not come to an agreement at all.
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  7. Trespassing and Reflective Equilibrium.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In this paper, I present an objection to the reflective equilibrium method based on land purchases and trespassing. I then propose a solution, which involves a change to how we regard the method.
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  8. Outline of a Paradox of Moral Hesitation.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In this paper, I present an outline of a paradox which is a variation on the lottery paradox and concerns whether we can ignore hesitant moral judgments.
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  9. Kenneth Arrow on Rawls’s “Asset Egalitarian” Assumption About Justice.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Kenneth Arrow presents Rawls as making a controversial assumption, which he terms “asset egalitarianism”: that all the assets of society, including personal skills, are available for distribution. I distinguish two versions of the assumption and draw attention to difficulties in determining what Arrow’s concern over the assumption is.
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  10. The Hart-Rawls Debate: Libel, Privacy Infringement, Reflective Equilibrium.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    H.L.A. Hart objects to John Rawls’s liberty principle by drawing attention to how our legal system accepts the restriction of liberty to protect against other harms than liberty-deprivation, such as by laws against slander, libel, and publications which grossly infringe privacy. What is the solution for John Rawls, faced with this criticism? One solution is, by the reflective equilibrium method, to justify abandoning the judgment that these actions are immoral.
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  11. A Liberal Argument for Restricting Recreational Drug Consumption.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In this paper, I identify an argument derived from the commitments of John Rawls’s liberalism for restricting the consumption of recreational drugs in a liberal society, but not because of a great passion for restriction at present. The argument can also be used to respond to Jonathan Quong’s example of an unresolvable disagreement between liberal citizens.
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  12. Puzzles From Joseph Raz’s Obituary of H.L.A. Hart.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Joseph Raz’s obituary of H.L.A. Hart for Utilitas raises certain puzzles, especially for readers coming from the research area analytic political philosophy. I present three puzzles.
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  13. What “Everyone” Needs to Know? H.L.A. Hart and Scott Soames on Reducing Liberty.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a two-page handout covering the subtle differences between H.L.A. Hart and Scott Soames on whether the protection of basic liberties would be prioritized using the original position method.
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  14. Another Objection From Sidgwick to Rawls’s Liberty Principle, and a Response.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    There are other problems for John Rawls’s philosophy that can be extracted from Henry Sidgwick’s discussion of the priority of freedom, apart from the problem H.L.A. Hart focuses on. This paper considers one such problem – that it is an empirical issue whether a sane adult is better off more free, rather than something to be assumed – and presents one Rawlsian solution.
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  15. Problems Start with the Preface! Are Fair Equality of Opportunity and Quine Consistent?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    The preface to A Theory of Justice includes the interesting suggestion that John Rawls’s system is consistent with W.V. Quine’s system. I raise a problem for achieving fair equality of opportunity granting Quine’s system: that one does not have to respond to apparent evidence that two candidates are equally suitable for a job in the desired way. There does not appear to be a logical inconsistency between the systems at this point, but in practice regular positive discrimination schemes are probably (...)
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  16. Lowe Hanging Fruit? Underdeterminism and the Evaluation of Libertarianism.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I respond to Dan Lowe’s charge that libertarianism, or the most defensible version, involves an unacceptable “asymmetry of value.” I argue that there is an inconsistency between Lowe’s approach to counterexamples and his eventual objection.
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  17. What “Everyone” Needs to Know? Sidgwick and Hart Against the Priority of Liberty.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one page handout, which draws attention to subtle adaptations that H.L.A. Hart makes regarding material from Henry Sidgwick, when he debates with Rawls and appeals to Sidgwick's objections to the priority of liberty. These adaptations challenge the impression that Rawls should have known better.
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  18. Doing History in the Original Position.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    An objection to John Rawls’s original position is that it faces a problem of inconsistent features: the individuals in this hypothetical situation are not supposed to know where they are in history, but they have knowledge of general social science, from which they can infer at which point in time they are. In this paper, I consider two solutions. One of these solutions depends on extending a solution to another well-known objection: that readers cannot imagine lacking the knowledge that these (...)
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  19. “What is the Difference Between Your Subset Objection to Rawls on Utilitarianism and T.H. Irwin’s Commentary?”.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    T.H. Irwin’s stimulating commentary on John Rawls anticipates but does not make “the subset objection to Rawls.” This term of mine is potentially misleading, but Irwin’s commentary is more so: I argue that relevant parts involve dubious commitments.
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  20. H.L.A. Hart, Scott Soames, and the Priority of Liberty Rights Over Economic Gains.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper responds to material from Scott Soames’s wide ranging book The World Philosophy Made, material which I am actually tempted to overlook. Soames adds a detail to a criticism H.L.A. Hart makes of John Rawls, but I argue that Soames cannot consistently endorse this criticism, given his acceptance of trickle-down economics and his aspiration to cohere with a dominant strand of right-wing American philosophy.
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  21. Three Assumptions of Rawlsian Reflective Equilibrium.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    John Rawls recommends a reflective equilibrium method for evaluating which principles institutions should abide by. In this paper, I identify and challenge three assumptions that he makes.
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  22. Defense of Rawls: A Reply to Brock.Paul Fryfogle - manuscript
    Cosmopolitans like Gillian Brock, Charles Beitz, and Thomas Pogge argue that the principles of justice selected and arranged in lexical priority in Rawls’ first original position would—and should for the same reasons as in the first—also be selected in Rawls’ second original position. After all, the argument goes, what reasons other than morally arbitrary ones do we have for selecting a second set of principles? A different, though undoubtedly related, point of contention is the cosmopolitan charge that Rawls fails to (...)
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  23. The Independence/Dependence Paradox Within John Rawls’s Political Liberalism.Ali Rizvi - manuscript
    Rawls in his later philosophy claims that it is sufficient to accept political conception as true or right, depending on what one's worldview allows, on the basis of whatever reasons one can muster, given one's worldview (doctrine). What political liberalism is interested in is a practical agreement on the political conception and not in our reasons for accepting it. There are deep issues (regarding deep values, purpose of life, metaphysics etc.) which cannot be resolved through invoking common reasons (this is (...)
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  24. The Uselessness of Rawls’s “Ideal Theory”.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Over the years a few authors have argued that Rawls’s ideal theory of justice is useless for the real world. This criticism has been largely ignored by Rawlsians, but in the light of a recent accumulation of such criticisms, some authors (in particular Holly Lawford-Smith, A. John Simmons, Zofia Stemplowska and Laura Valentini) have tried to defend ideal theory. In this article I will recapitulate the precise problem with Rawls’s ideal theory, argue that some of Rawls’s defenders misconceive it, and (...)
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  25. Rawls and Utilitarianism.Yujin Nagasawa - manuscript
    in John Rawls’ Theory of Social Justice, eds. Gene Blocker and Elizabeth Smith (Ohio University Press, 1980), pp.346-394.
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  26. Does the Original Position Yield the Maximin?David Baumslag - unknown - Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 13.
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  27. Rebuilding Rawls: An Alternative Theory of Justice.Leo Groarke - unknown - Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 2.
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  28. Some Considerations About the Discovery of Principles of Justice.David Suits - unknown - Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 1.
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  29. John Rawls Versus the Equality Monster.Phil Veldius - unknown - Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 13.
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  30. Review of Jack Reynolds' "Chronopathologies: Time and Politics in Deleuze, Derrida, Analytic Philosophy, and Phenomenology". [REVIEW]Marco Altamirano - forthcoming - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:xx-yy.
  31. John Rawls, Political Liberalism.D. Archard - forthcoming - Radical Philosophy.
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  32. Hayvanlar Ve Adalet: Rawls Ve Nussbaum Bağlamında Bir İnceleme.Emine Cengiz - forthcoming - Beytulhikme An International Journal of Philosophy.
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  33. O Senso de Justiça Em John Rawls.Raquel Cipriani Xavier - forthcoming - Filosofia Unisinos:1-16.
    Trata-se da tradução do artigo "The Sense of Justice", de John Rawls, publicado originalmente emThe Philosophical Review, Jul., 1963, Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 281-305.
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  34. Beyond Ideal Theory: Foundations for a Critical Rawlsian Theory of Climate Justice.Paul Clements & Paul Formosa - forthcoming - New Political Science:1-20.
    Rawls’s contractualist approach to justice is well known for its adoption of ideal theory. This approach starts by setting out the political goal or ideal and leaves it to non-ideal or partial compliance theory to map out how to get there. However, Rawls’s use of ideal theory has been criticized by Sen from the right and by Mouffe from the left. We critically address these concerns in the context of developing a Rawlsian approach to climate justice. While the importance of (...)
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  35. Original Position.Fred D'Agostino - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  36. Charlie Hebdo Meets Utility Monster.William A. Edmundson - forthcoming - The Critique.
    The Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 and the subsequent attacks of November 13 cast a garish light onto a conundrum at the center of how liberal democracies understand themselves. The Syrian emigrant crisis has added further color. How can a tolerant, liberal political culture tolerate the presence of intolerant, illiberal, sub-cultures while remaining true to its principles of tolerance? The problem falls within the intersection of two developments in the thinking of John Rawls, the great American political philosopher who (...)
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  37. Listen Libertarians!: A Review of John Tomasi's Free Market Fairness. [REVIEW]David Ellerman - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Issues.
    John Tomasi's new book, Free Market Fairness, has been well-received as "one of the very best philosophical treatments of libertarian thought, ever" and as a "long and friendly conversation between Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls—a conversation which, astonishingly, reaches agreement". The book does present an authoritative state-of-the-debate across the spectrum from right-libertarianism on the one side to high liberalism on the other side. My point is not to question where Tomasi comes down with his own version of "market democracy" as (...)
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  38. Rawls y la Cláusula Del Valor Equitativo de Las Libertades Políticas.Iñigo González Ricoy - forthcoming - Enrahonar: Quaderns de Filosofía.
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  39. The Maximin Principle.John C. Harsanyi - forthcoming - Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader.
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  40. Review of John Rawls's Collected Papers. [REVIEW]Thomas Hill - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
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  41. Public Reason Under the Tree: Rawls and the African Palaver.Fidèle Ingiyimbere - forthcoming - Sage Publications Ltd: Philosophy and Social Criticism.
    Philosophy & Social Criticism, Ahead of Print. Public reason is central to John Rawls’s political liberalism, as a mechanism for citizens to discuss about matters of common interest. Although free and equal, reasonable and rational, citizens of a democratic society disagree on their understanding of truth and right, giving rise to the fact of reasonable pluralism. Thus, Rawls works out an idea of public reason which allows citizens to argue about political matters and yet remaining divided in their comprehensive doctrines. (...)
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  42. Public Reason Under the Tree: Rawls and the African Palaver.Fidèle Ingiyimbere - forthcoming - Sage Journals.
    Philosophy & Social Criticism, Ahead of Print. Public reason is central to John Rawls’s political liberalism, as a mechanism for citizens to discuss about matters of common interest. Although free and equal, reasonable and rational, citizens of a democratic society disagree on their understanding of truth and right, giving rise to the fact of reasonable pluralism. Thus, Rawls works out an idea of public reason which allows citizens to argue about political matters and yet remaining divided in their comprehensive doctrines. (...)
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  43. Public Reason Under the Tree: Rawls and the African Palaver.Fidèle Ingiyimbere - forthcoming - Philosophy and Social Criticism.
    Public reason is central to John Rawls’s political liberalism, as a mechanism for citizens to discuss about matters of common interest. Although free and equal, reasonable and rational, citizens of a democratic society disagree on their understanding of truth and right, giving rise to the fact of reasonable pluralism. Thus, Rawls works out an idea of public reason which allows citizens to argue about political matters and yet remaining divided in their comprehensive doctrines. On the other hand, African culture has (...)
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  44. Rawls’ Reflective Equilibrium as a Method of Justifying Moral Beliefs.Husein Inusah & Paa Kweku Quansah - forthcoming - Axiomathes:1-17.
    It is undeniable that people have beliefs about what actions are morally right. These beliefs play an important role in guiding moral action. Is it possible however to justify beliefs about what actions are morally right? How can beliefs of this sort be justified? Sinnott-Armstrong has advanced an epistemic regress argument against the justification of moral beliefs with the consequence that moral beliefs cannot be justified. This essay addresses the issue of the justification of moral beliefs to answer the question (...)
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  45. Playing Kant at the Court of King Arthur.Robert Jubb - forthcoming - Political Studies 63 (4):919-934.
    This article contrasts the sense in which those whom Bernard Williams called ‘political realists’ and John Rawls are committed to the idea that political philosophy has to be distinctively political. Distinguishing the realist critique of political moralism from debates over ideal and non-ideal theory, it is argued that Rawls is more realist than many realists realise, and that realists can learn more about how to make a distinctively political vision of how our life together should be organised from his theorising, (...)
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  46. Clarifying Our Duties to Resist.Chong-Ming Lim - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1.
    According to a prominent argument, citizens in unjust societies have a duty to resist injustice. The moral and political principles that ground the duty to obey the law in just or nearly just conditions, also ground the duty to resist in unjust conditions. This argument is often applied to a variety of unjust conditions. In this essay, I critically examine this argument, focusing on conditions involving institutionally entrenched and socially normalised injustice. In such conditions, the issue of citizens’ duties to (...)
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  47. The Basic Liberties: An Essay on Analytical Specification.Stephen K. McLeod & Attila Tanyi - forthcoming - European Journal of Political Theory.
    We characterize, more precisely than before, what Rawls calls the “analytical” method of drawing up a list of basic liberties. This method employs one or more general conditions that, under any just social order whatever, putative entitlements must meet for them to be among the basic liberties encompassed, within some just social order, by Rawls’s first principle of justice (i.e., the liberty principle). We argue that the general conditions that feature in Rawls’s own account of the analytical method, which employ (...)
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  48. Justice and Fairness: Mandating Universal Participation.Paul T. Menzel - forthcoming - Hastings Center Report.
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  49. Warding Off the Evil Eye: Peer Envy in Rawls's Just Society.James S. Pearson - forthcoming - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie.
    This article critically analyzes Rawls’s attitude towards envy. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls is predominantly concerned with the threat that class envy – or what he calls general envy – poses to political stability. By contrast, he does not think that particular envy – the type of envy that arises between peers competing for the same objects – would be in any way problematic for his ideal political society. I contest this claim by pointing to the politically deleterious effects (...)
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  50. The Harsanyi-Rawls Debate: Political Philosophy as Decision Theory Under Uncertainty.Ramiro Ávila Peres - forthcoming - Manuscrito: Revista Internacional de Filosofía.
    Social decisions are often made under great uncertainty – in situations where political principles, and even standard subjective expected utility, do not apply smoothly. In the first section, we argue that the core of this problem lies in decision theory itself – it is about how to act when we do not have an adequate representation of the context of the action and of its possible consequences. Thus, we distinguish two criteria to complement decision theory under ignorance – Laplace’s principle (...)
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1 — 50 / 2481