John Rawls

John Rawls

Catherine Audard
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    John Rawls
    Book Description:

    John Rawls (1921-2002) is one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Contemporary political philosophy has been reshaped by his seminal ideas and most current work in the discipline is a response to them. Catherine Audard introduces his central ideas and examines their contribution to contemporary political thought. Audard begins with an exploration of Rawls' conception of political and social justice and its justification as presented in his groundbreaking A Theory of Justice. She provides a sustained examination of Rawls' moral philosophy, the complex relation between Rawls' views and utilitarianism, and his most famous concept, the Original Position Device. She concludes with an analysis of Rawls' more practical concerns for stability and political consensus, citizenship and international justice, showing the continuity between these concerns and his earlier work. John Rawls places the philosopher's ideas within an historical context and provides an interpretative and critical framework that will help shape ongoing debates surrounding Rawls' work.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9495-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    There is a wide consensus that John Rawls is one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century in the Anglophone world. His work covers and has reshaped most of the major issues of contemporary political philosophy, from constitutional law to distributive justice, from citizenship to economic efficiency, from global ethics to religious toleration, from cultural pluralism to forms of democratic consensus, etc. Moreover, most of these topics derive from his own analysis of the relation between ethics and politics: they did not exist as such before. Most of contemporary political philosophy has been nurtured by his seminal ideas and...

  6. Chapter 1 The primacy of justice
    (pp. 25-78)

    What is characteristic about democratic societies? What is their ambition? Is it to increase welfare and prosperity or happiness or liberty or some other value? For Rawls, it isjusticeand equal respect for persons that is the main distinctive concern, a concern that overrides other legitimate values. “I have tried to set forth a theory that enables us to understand and to assess these feelings about the primacy of justice” (TJ: 513).

    In this chapter, I explain the main philosophical thesis that is the backdrop for the primacy of justice.

    I start with some remarks on the meaning of...

  7. Chapter 2 Constructing the principles of justice
    (pp. 79-122)

    In this chapter, I examine how Rawls translates hismoraldoctrine of the priority of justice intopoliticalprinciples of justice. The method he uses to that end ispoliticalconstructivism (PL: Lecture III). Constructivism, as I showed in Chapter 1, is Rawls’ specific method, which avoids imposing personal moral criteria to collective guidelines and political principles, as dominant-end or teleological doctrines would do, thus disregarding citizens’ autonomy. Constructivism generates instead from within, so to speak, a transformation of our considered moral intuitions into political principles during a two-stage process. In the first stage, we reconstruct moralintuitions: this is...

  8. Chapter 3 Defending democratic equality: The argument from the Original Position
    (pp. 123-174)

    In this chapter, I present the second part of Rawls’ argument: thereasoningthat leads to adopting the two principles of justice as fairness and to rejecting the other alternatives, mainly the utility principle in its various forms. As important as the reasoning itself is its setting in an Original Position (OP hereafter) where the parties, placed behind a “veil of ignorance”, reflect on how best to distribute “primary goods” among the persons they represent, goods that are not simply welfare, but include wealth and income as well as the basic liberties and the social bases of self-respect (TJ: 54–...

  9. Chapter 4 Pluralism and political consensus: The argument for political liberalism
    (pp. 175-228)

    In thesecond stageof the theory of justice, presented in Part III ofA Theory of Justice, Rawls leaves the sphere of theoretical thinking and becomes concerned with the more political questions offeasibilityandstability. Once the veil of ignorance is lifted and full information becomes available to citizens, the principles of justice and the rules of public reasoning are firmly settled (PL: 140–41). In order for the theory of justice to be complete, we now have to address the question of its stability, of the support it will get over time from all or from a...

  10. Chapter 5 A reasonable law of peoples for a real world
    (pp. 229-274)

    Could the main ideas of the theory of justice be adapted and extended to provide a theory ofinternationaljustice? Can the conception of “justice as fairness” be unanimously adopted as a guideline for foreign policies, for international public law and for international redistributive justice? Could it help to establish the rule of law at the international level and, as a consequence, a lasting peace? These are the questions that Rawls will try to address in the later part of his work.

    We need, to start with, a clear definition of the term “international justice”, which is very confusing and...

  11. Conclusion: Beyond liberalism
    (pp. 275-292)

    To conclude, I wish to focus on the main challenges that Rawls has set himself and to assess his success in meeting them.

    The first challenge was to build a convincing argument for both social justice and the protection of basic rights and liberties, which would avoid direct appeals to moral motivation, ashomo oeconomicusonly connects with instrumental rationality, but which would be an alternative to utilitarianism and its indirect and usually weak defence of justice.

    The second challenge was to construct a conception of justice that would overcome the traditional conflicts between freedom and equality which have characterized...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 293-312)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-319)
  14. Index
    (pp. 320-328)