Philosophy Word of the Day – John Rawls (1921-2002 )

American political philosopher. As presented in A Theory of Justice (1971) {at}, Rawls’s concept of “justice as fairness” offers a non-historical or hypothetical variation on the social contract theory, in which rational agents make social decisions from behind a “veil of ignorance” that prevents them from knowing in advance what status they will hold.

According to Rawls, this method will produce a society where individual liberties are maximized for all citizens and social inequality is justifiable only under conditions that would be beneficial for its least-favored members. Further exposition of this theory, along with a restatement of Rawls’s opposition to utilitarianism and an examination of political pluralism, appear in Political Liberalism (1993) {at}. Two Concepts of Rules (1955) is an early statement of Rawls’s basic principles.

Recommended Reading: John Rawls, Collected Papers, ed. by Samuel Freeman (Harvard, 2001) {at}; John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Harvard, 2001) {at}; Chandran Kukathas and Philip Pettit, Rawls: A Theory of Justice and Its Critics (Stanford, 1991) {at}; and Reading Rawls: Critical Studies on Rawls on Rawls ‘A Theory of Justice’, ed. by Norman Daniels (Stanford, 1989) {at}.

(Via Philosophy Pages)

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