John Rawls never published anything about his own religious beliefs, but after his death two texts were discovered which shed extraordinary light on the subject. A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith is Rawls’s undergraduate senior thesis, submitted in December 1942, just before he entered the army. At that time Rawls was deeply religious; the thesis is a significant work of theological ethics, of interest both in itself and because of its relation to his mature writings. “On My Religion,” a short statement drafted in 1997, describes the history of his religious beliefs and attitudes toward religion, including his abandonment of orthodoxy during World War II.The present volume includes these two texts, together with an Introduction by Joshua Cohen and Thomas Nagel, which discusses their relation to Rawls’s published work, and an essay by Robert Merrihew Adams, which places the thesis in its theological context.The texts display the profound engagement with religion that forms the background of Rawls’s later views on the importance of separating religion and politics. Moreover, the moral and social convictions that the thesis expresses in religious form are related in illuminating ways to the central ideas of Rawls’s later writings. His notions of sin, faith, and community are simultaneously moral and theological, and prefigure the moral outlook found in Theory of Justice.
John Rawls’s work on justice has drawn more commentary and aroused wider attention than any other work in moral or political philosophy in the twentieth century. Rawls is the author of two major treatises, A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism (1993); it is said that A Theory of Justice revived political philosophy in the English-speaking world.But before and after writing his great treatises Rawls produced a steady stream of essays. Some of these essays articulate views of justice and liberalism distinct from those found in the two books. They are important in and of themselves because of the deep issues about the nature of justice, moral reasoning, and liberalism they raise as well as for the light they shed on the evolution of Rawls’s views. Some of the articles tackle issues not addressed in either book. They help identify some of the paths open to liberal theorists of justice and some of the knotty problems which liberal theorists must seek to resolve.A complete collection of John Rawls’s essays is long overdue.
Social justice: an ideal, forever beyond our grasp; or one of many practical possibilities? More than a matter of intellectual discourse, the idea of justice plays a real role in how—and how well—people live. And in this book the distinguished scholar Amartya Sen offers a powerful critique of the theory of social justice that, in its grip on social and political thinking, has long left practical realities far behind.The transcendental theory of justice, the subject of Sen’s analysis, flourished in the Enlightenment and has proponents among some of the most distinguished philosophers of our day; it is concerned with identifying perfectly just social arrangements, defining the nature of the perfectly just society. The approach Sen favors, on the other hand, focuses on the comparative judgments of what is “more” or “less” just, and on the comparative merits of the different societies that actually emerge from certain institutions and social interactions.At the heart of Sen’s argument is a respect for reasoned differences in our understanding of what a “just society” really is. People of different persuasions—for example, utilitarians, economic egalitarians, labor right theorists, no-nonsense libertarians—might each reasonably see a clear and straightforward resolution to questions of justice; and yet, these clear and straightforward resolutions would be completely different. In light of this, Sen argues for a comparative perspective on justice that can guide us in the choice between alternatives that we inevitably face.
An engaging account of the titan of political philosophy and the development of his most important work, A Theory of Justice, coming at a moment when its ideas are sorely needed.It is hard to overestimate the influence of John Rawls on political philosophy and theory over the last half-century. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide, and he is one of the few philosophers whose work is known in the corridors of power as well as in the halls of academe. Rawls is most famous for the development of his view of “justice as fairness,” articulated most forcefully in his best-known work, A Theory of Justice. In it he develops a liberalism focused on improving the fate of the least advantaged, and attempts to demonstrate that, despite our differences, agreement on basic political institutions is both possible and achievable.Critics have maintained that Rawls’s view is unrealistic and ultimately undemocratic. In this incisive new intellectual biography, Andrius Gališanka argues that in misunderstanding the origins and development of Rawls’s central argument, previous narratives fail to explain the novelty of his philosophical approach and so misunderstand the political vision he made prevalent. Gališanka draws on newly available archives of Rawls’s unpublished essays and personal papers to clarify the justifications Rawls offered for his assumption of basic moral agreement. Gališanka’s intellectual-historical approach reveals a philosopher struggling toward humbler claims than critics allege.To engage with Rawls’s search for agreement is particularly valuable at this political juncture. By providing insight into the origins, aims, and arguments of A Theory of Justice, Gališanka’s John Rawls will allow us to consider the philosopher’s most important and influential work with fresh eyes.
This book originated as lectures for a course on political philosophy that Rawls taught regularly at Harvard in the 1980s. In time the lectures became a restatement of his theory of justice as fairness, revised in light of his more recent papers and his treatise Political Liberalism (1993). As Rawls writes in the preface, the restatement presents "in one place an account of justice as fairness as I now see it, drawing on all [my previous] works." He offers a broad overview of his main lines of thought and also explores specific issues never before addressed in any of his writings.Rawls is well aware that since the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971, American society has moved farther away from the idea of justice as fairness. Yet his ideas retain their power and relevance to debates in a pluralistic society about the meaning and theoretical viability of liberalism. This book demonstrates that moral clarity can be achieved even when a collective commitment to justice is uncertain.
This book consists of two parts: “The Law of Peoples,” a major reworking of a much shorter article by the same name published in 1993, and the essay “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” first published in 1997. Taken together, they are the culmination of more than fifty years of reflection on liberalism and on some of the most pressing problems of our times by John Rawls.“The Law of Peoples” extends the idea of a social contract to the Society of Peoples and lays out the general principles that can and should be accepted by both liberal and non-liberal societies as the standard for regulating their behavior toward one another. In particular, it draws a crucial distinction between basic human rights and the rights of each citizen of a liberal constitutional democracy. It explores the terms under which such a society may appropriately wage war against an “outlaw society” and discusses the moral grounds for rendering assistance to non-liberal societies burdened by unfavorable political and economic conditions.“The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” explains why the constraints of public reason, a concept first discussed in Political Liberalism (1993), are ones that holders of both religious and non-religious comprehensive views can reasonably endorse. It is Rawls’s most detailed account of how a modern constitutional democracy, based on a liberal political conception, could and would be viewed as legitimate by reasonable citizens who on religious, philosophical, or moral grounds do not themselves accept a liberal comprehensive doctrine—such as that of Kant, or Mill, or Rawls’s own “Justice as Fairness,” presented in A Theory of Justice (1971).
The premier political philosopher of his day, John Rawls, in three decades of teaching at Harvard, has had a profound influence on the way philosophical ethics is approached and understood today. This book brings together the lectures that inspired a generation of students--and a regeneration of moral philosophy. It invites readers to learn from the most noted exemplars of modern moral philosophy with the inspired guidance of one of contemporary philosophy's most noteworthy practitioners and teachers.Central to Rawls's approach is the idea that respectful attention to the great texts of our tradition can lead to a fruitful exchange of ideas across the centuries. In this spirit, his book engages thinkers such as Leibniz, Hume, Kant, and Hegel as they struggle in brilliant and instructive ways to define the role of a moral conception in human life. The lectures delineate four basic types of moral reasoning: perfectionism, utilitarianism, intuitionism, and--the ultimate focus of Rawls's course--Kantian constructivism. Comprising a superb course on the history of moral philosophy, they also afford unique insight into how John Rawls has transformed our view of this history.
This last book by the late John Rawls, derived from written lectures and notes for his long-running course on modern political philosophy, offers readers an account of the liberal political tradition from a scholar viewed by many as the greatest contemporary exponent of the philosophy behind that tradition.Rawls's goal in the lectures was, he wrote, "to identify the more central features of liberalism as expressing a political conception of justice when liberalism is viewed from within the tradition of democratic constitutionalism." He does this by looking at several strands that make up the liberal and democratic constitutional traditions, and at the historical figures who best represent these strands--among them the contractarians Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; the utilitarians Hume, Sidgwick, and J. S. Mill; and Marx regarded as a critic of liberalism. Rawls's lectures on Bishop Joseph Butler also are included in an appendix. Constantly revised and refined over three decades, Rawls's lectures on these figures reflect his developing and changing views on the history of liberalism and democracy--as well as how he saw his own work in relation to those traditions.With its clear and careful analyses of the doctrine of the social contract, utilitarianism, and socialism--and of their most influential proponents--this volume has a critical place in the traditions it expounds. Marked by Rawls's characteristic patience and curiosity, and scrupulously edited by his student and teaching assistant, Samuel Freeman, these lectures are a fitting final addition to his oeuvre, and to the history of political philosophy as well.
"Public reason" is one of the central concepts in modern liberal political theory. As articulated by John Rawls, it presents a way to overcome the difficulties created by intractable differences among citizens' religious and moral beliefs by strictly confining the place of such convictions in the public sphere.
Identifying this conception as a key point of conflict, this book presents a debate among contemporary natural law and liberal political theorists on the definition and validity of the idea of public reason. Its distinguished contributors examine the consequences of interpreting public reason more broadly as "right reason," according to natural law theory, versus understanding it in the narrower sense in which Rawls intended. They test public reason by examining its implications for current issues, confronting the questions of abortion and slavery and matters relating to citizenship.
This energetic exchange advances our understanding of both Rawls's contribution to political philosophy and the lasting relevance of natural law. It provides new insights into crucial issues facing society today as it points to new ways of thinking about political theory and practice.
John Rawls aims to express an essential part of the common core of the democratic tradition—justice as fairness—and to provide an alternative to utilitarianism, which had dominated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political thought since the nineteenth century. Rawls substitutes the ideal of the social contract as a more satisfactory account of the basic rights and liberties of citizens as free and equal persons. “Each person,” writes Rawls, “possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” Advancing the ideas of Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Lincoln, Rawls’s theory is as powerful today as it was when first published.Though the revised edition of A Theory of Justice, published in 1999, is the definitive statement of Rawls’s view, much of the extensive literature on his theory refers to the original. This first edition is available for scholars and serious students of Rawls’s work.
Since it appeared in 1971, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice has become a classic. The author has now revised the original edition to clear up a number of difficulties he and others have found in the original book.Rawls aims to express an essential part of the common core of the democratic tradition--justice as fairness--and to provide an alternative to utilitarianism, which had dominated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political thought since the nineteenth century. Rawls substitutes the ideal of the social contract as a more satisfactory account of the basic rights and liberties of citizens as free and equal persons. "Each person," writes Rawls, "possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override." Advancing the ideas of Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Lincoln, Rawls's theory is as powerful today as it was when first published.
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