Review of Metaphysics 26 (4):764-765 (1973)

The justice considered here is social justice, specifically the justice of the fundamental institutions of civil society. Rawls presents a theory in the sense that he tries to construct a model to account for the facts of our judgments about justice; theoretical proposals may lead us to alter our judgments, but the theory is justified if and only if it and the facts come to reflective equilibrium. The theory proposed is an alternative to utilitarianism and is in the contract tradition with particular affinity for the social and political philosophy of Kant, though without the latter’s metaphysics. The book has three parts. In the first, Rawls outlines his theory. Imagining free and equal contractors in an original position involving a veil of ignorance to ensure impartiality, Rawls argues that the contracting parties would choose principles of justice as fairness. There are two main principles: equality of liberty for all in the society, and arrangement of social and economic inequalities to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and under conditions of fair equality of opportunity. Equal liberty is argued to take priority in such a way that it cannot be compromised for other advantages. The second part of the book deals with a number of topics such as freedom of conscience, civil disobedience, and economic distribution in an effort to show that the theory can handle these problems and yield results congruent with our intuitive judgments of justice.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197326494
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