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John Rawls

Edited by Shaun Young (York University, University of Toronto)
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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 1971; 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. A. (1974). The Liberal Theory of Justice: A Critical Examination of the Principal Doctrines in a Theory of Justice by John Rawls. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 28 (1):116-117.
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  2. J. Aaron (2006). Constructing Justice for Existing Practice: Rawls and the Status Quo. Philosophy and Public Affairs 33:281 - 316.
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  3. Ruth Abbey (ed.) (2013). Feminist Interpretations of John Rawls. Penn State University Press.
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  4. Ruth Abbey (2007). Rawlsian Resources for Animal Ethics. Ethics and the Environment 12 (1):1-22.
    : This article considers what contribution the work of John Rawls can make to questions about animal ethics. It argues that there are more normative resources in A Theory of Justice for a concern with animal welfare than some of Rawls's critics acknowledge. However, the move from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism sees a depletion of normative resources in Rawlsian thought for addressing animal ethics. The article concludes by endorsing the implication of A Theory of Justice that we (...)
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  5. Farid Abdel-Nour (1999). Beyond Rorty, Habermas and Rawls: Cross-Cultural Judgement in the Postmetaphysical Age. Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    This dissertation engages the following question: how, in the absence of an uncontroversial source of moral guidance, can liberals make political and moral claims across cultural divides? While committed to toleration, liberals cannot escape the compulsion to apply basic standards of equal individual human rights and liberties universally. Under postmetaphysical conditions, however, they no longer find credible arguments that assure them of the sources of these standards in "natural law," "human nature," or "practical reason." Aware that individual rights have their (...)
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  6. Edward Abplanalp, Background Environmental Justice: An Extension of Rawls's Political Liberalism.
    This dissertation extends John Rawls’s mature theory of justice out to address the environmental challenges that citizens of liberal democracies now face. Specifically, using Rawls’s framework of political liberalism, I piece together a theory of procedural justice to be applied to a constitutional democracy. I show how citizens of pluralistic democracies should apply this theory to environmental matters in a four stage contracting procedure. I argue that, if implemented, this extension to Rawls’s theory would secure background environmental justice. I explain (...)
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  7. Bruce Ackerman (1994). Political Liberalisms. Journal of Philosophy 91 (7):364-386.
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  8. Robert Merrihew Adams (2009). Conflict. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83 (1):115-132.
    The following theses are defended. Conflict has importantly valuable functions, but we obviously need to limit its destructiveness. The efficacy of reasoning together in resolving or restraining conflict is limited; it needs to be supplemented by procedures such as negotiation, compromise, and voting. Despite the urgency of justice, when the resolution or limitation of a conflict needs to be negotiated, the best attainable outcome will often not seem completely just to all parties, and some claims of justice, as seen by (...)
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  9. Binod Kumar Agarwala (1986). In Defence of the Use of Maximin Principle of Choice Under Uncertainty in Rawls' Original Position. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 8 (2):157-176.
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  10. M. Agnafors (2012). Reassessing Walzer's Social Criticism. Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (9):917-937.
    It is often argued that Michael Walzer’s theory of social criticism, which underpins his theory of justice, is not much of a theory at all, but rather an impressionistic collection of historical anecdotes. Contrary to this perception, I argue that Walzer’s method can be accurately described as a version of John Rawls’ well-known method of wide reflective equilibrium. Through a systematic comparison it can be shown that the two methods are strikingly similar. This implies that, far from the critics’ claim, (...)
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  11. Sebastián Antonio Contreras Aguirre (2008). Psicología de la Justicia. La relación alma-justicia en Platón. A Parte Rei: Revista de Filosofía 57:6.
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  12. James Aho (2010). Harold Garfinkel: Toward a Sociological Theory of Information. Ed. Anne Warfield Rawls. [REVIEW] Human Studies 33 (1):117-121.
    Harold Garfinkel: Toward a Sociological Theory of Information. Ed. Anne Warfield Rawls Content Type Journal Article Pages 117-121 DOI 10.1007/s10746-010-9141-1 Authors James Aho, Idaho State University Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice Pocatello ID 83209 USA Journal Human Studies Online ISSN 1572-851X Print ISSN 0163-8548 Journal Volume Volume 33 Journal Issue Volume 33, Number 1.
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  13. Norberto Alcover (2008). La difícil justicia mediática: aproximación a la justicia en los medios de comunicación social, pero también de ellos. Critica 58 (954):57-61.
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  14. Roberto Alejandro (1998). The Limits of Rawlsian Justice. Johns Hopkins University Press.
    The idea of fairness lies at the heart of the concept of justice proposed by political philosopher John Rawls, a concept that liberals have often invoked to defend the welfare state. In The Limits of Rawlsian Justice political theorist Roberto Alejandro challenges the assumptions that Rawls set out to defend his position. While other opponents of Rawls have attempted to offer an alternative to his concept of justice as fairness, Alejandro instead examines Rawls from within his own writings, testing Rawls's (...)
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  15. Gar Alperovitz (2012). Property-Owning Democracy. In T. Williamson (ed.), Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond. Wiley-Blackwell. 266.
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  16. J. E. J. Altham (1973). Rawls's Difference Principle. Philosophy 48 (183):75 - 78.
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  17. Andrew Altman (1983). Rawls' Pragmatic Turn. Journal of Social Philosophy 14 (3):8-12.
  18. Juan Carlos Alútiz (2004). Homenaje póstumo a John Rawls. Isegoría 31:5-45.
    El presente artículo trata de ofrecer una visión panorámica de la obra de John Rawls, describiendo la evolución de su pensamiento desde su inicial y original propuesta de «Justicia como equidad», hasta sus últimas aportaciones en tomo al Liberalismo político.
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  19. A. C. Amato (2004). Sul diritto dei popoli. A proposito della teoria non ideale di John Rawls. Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia Del Diritto 81.
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  20. Jeremy Anderson, © 1991 Jeremy@Jeremyanderson.Net.
    The contractarian theory elaborated by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice exploits the difference principle in a great many ways. Rawls argues that, when used as part of a set of guiding principles for structuring the basic institutions of society, it simplifies the problem of interpersonal comparisons (91-4)1, helps compensate for the arbitrariness of natural endowments (101-3), promotes a harmony of interests between citizens (104-5), reintroduces the principle of fraternity to democratic society (105-6), and, what is critical to his (...)
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  21. ÀngelCastiñeira (1993). Associació estable versus unió social. La concepció de la societat en Nozick i Rawls. Convivium 5:99.
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  22. Stephen C. Angle (2005). Decent Democratic Centralism. Political Theory 33 (4):518 - 546.
    Are there any coherent and defensible alternatives to liberal democracy? The author examines the possibility that a reformed democratic centralism-the principle around which China's current polity is officially organized-might be legitimate, according to both an inside and an outside perspective. The inside perspective builds on contemporary Chinese political theory; the outside perspective critically deploys Rawls's notion ofa "decent society " as its standard. Along the way, the author pays particular attention to the kinds and degree of pluralism a decent society (...)
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  23. Erik Angner (2004). Revisiting Rawls:A Theory of Justice in the Light of Levi's Theory of Decision. Theoria 70 (1):3-21.
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  24. Karl-Otto Apel (2001). Is a Political Conception of “Overlapping Consensus” an Adequate Basis for Global Justice? The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 11:1-15.
    This paper considers how the problem of justice is to be globalized in the political theory of John Rawls. I discuss first the conception of “overlapping consensus” as an innovation in Rawls’s Political Liberalism and point out the recurrence of the problem of a philosophical foundation in his pragmatico-political interpretation. I suggest an intensification of Rawls’s notion of the “priority of the right to the good” as a philosophical correction to his political self-interpretation, and then finally carry through on a (...)
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  25. Marcelo de Araújo (2007). Justiça internacional e direitos humanos: uma abordagem contratualista. Veritas 52 (1).
    Minha intenção é mostrar, contra o realismo em relações internacionais, que, ao abordarmos os conceitos de justiça internacional e de direitos humanos, a partir de uma perspectiva contratualista, o denominado conflito entre o interesse nacional e as exigências da moralidade se mostra bem menos problemático. Apresento os principais argumentos em favor do contratualismo através de uma reconstrução da teoria moral de David Gauthier. Em seguida, procuro mostrar que o tipo de contratualismo defendido por Rawls e seus seguidores não é capaz (...)
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  26. Matthew Arbo (2013). Why Political Liberalism? On John Rawls's Political Turn by Paul Weithman. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 33 (1):203-204.
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  27. Matthew Arbo, Hunter Baker, Jerome C. Foss, Daniel Kelly, Joseph Knippenberg, Bryan McGraw, Matthew Parks, Karen Taliaferro, John Addison Teevan & Micah Watson (2014). John Rawls and Christian Social Engagement: Justice as Unfairness. Lexington Books.
    In this book, leading Christian political thinkers and practitioners critique the Rawlsian concepts of “justice as fairness” and “public reason” from the perspective of Christian political theory and practice. It provides a new level of analysis from Christian perspectives, including implications for such hot topics as the culture war.
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  28. D. Archard (forthcoming). John Rawls, Political Liberalism. Radical Philosophy.
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  29. David Archard (2005). Political Reasonability. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):1 - 25.
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  30. David Archard (1994). Fair Enough? Radical Philosophy Group.
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  31. René V. Arcilla (2013). Rawls, Sartre, and the Question of Camaraderie. Studies in Philosophy and Education 32 (5):491-502.
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  32. Richard Arneson, Introduction to Rawls on Justice and Rawls on Utilitarianism.
    According to Rawls, the principles of justice are principles that determine a fair resolution of conflicts of interest among persons in a society. “A set of principles is required for choosing among the various social arrangements which determine this division of advantages and for underwriting an agreement on the proper distributive shares” (p. 4). Different interpretations or conceptions of justice fill out this core concept; a theory of justice seeks a best conception. Justice takes priority over other normative claims—as Rawls (...)
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  33. Richard Arneson, Rawls, Responsibility, and Distributive Justice.
    The theory of justice pioneered by John Rawls explores a simple idea--that the concern of distributive justice is to compensate individuals for misfortune. Some people are blessed with good luck, some are cursed with bad luck, and it is the responsibility of society--all of us regarded collectively--to alter the distribution of goods and evils that arises from the jumble of lotteries that constitutes human life as we know it. Some are lucky to be born wealthy, or into a favorable socializing (...)
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  34. Richard Arneson, Rawls Versus Utilitarianism in the Light of Political Liberalism.
    The critique of utilitarianism forms a crucial subplot in the complex analysis of social justice that John Rawls develops in his first book, A Theory of Justice.1 The weaknesses of utilitarianism indicate the need for an alternative theory, and at many stages of the argument the test for the adequacy of the new theory that Rawls elaborates is whether it can be demonstrated to be superior to the utilitarian rival. The account of social justice shifts in the transition to Rawls’s (...)
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  35. Richard Arneson, Two Cheers for Capabilities.
    What is the best standard of interpersonal comparison for a broadly egalitarian theory of social justice?1 A broadly egalitarian theory is one that holds that justice requires that institutions and individual actions should be arranged to improve, to some degree, the quality of life of those who are worse off than others, or very badly off, or both.2 I shall add the specification that to qualify as broadly egalitarian, the theory must in some circumstances require action to aid the worse (...)
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  36. Richard Arneson (2014). Rejecting the Order of Public Reason. Philosophical Studies 170 (3):537-544.
    Gerald Gaus’s latest book achieves a remarkable, definitive development of the public reason project whose roots can be traced back to Locke and Kant and which had already attained its full expression in the later writing of John Rawls—or so we had thought! In fact Gaus takes a long step beyond Rawls.Gaus (2011). Page numbers enclosed in parentheses of the text refer to this book. For John Rawls on public reason, see especially his A Theory of Justice (1999); also Rawls (...)
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  37. Richard Arneson (2008). Justice is Not Equality. Ratio 21 (4):371-391.
    This essay disputes G. A. Cohen's claim that John Rawls's argument for the difference principle involves an argument from moral arbitrariness to equality and then an illicit move away from equality. Moreover, the claim that an argument from moral arbitrariness establishes equality as the essential distributive justice ideal is found wanting.
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  38. Richard J. Arneson (2013). From Primary Goods to Capabilities to Well-Being. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 16 (2):179-195.
    Amartya Sen?s The Idea of Justice (2009) mistakenly characterizes transcendental accounts of justice as being unable to compare non-ideal alternatives, and thus misfires as a criticism of Robert Nozick and John Rawls. In fact, Nozick?s disinterest in when rights may be overridden does not bespeak indifference to specific questions of comparative assessment, and Lockean rights do give determinate advice in everyday circumstances. Sen correctly reports that Rawls?s theory is defective at giving practical normative advice, but the basic problem is the (...)
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  39. Richard J. Arneson (1999). Against Rawlsian Equality of Opportunity. Philosophical Studies 93 (1):77-112.
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  40. Marcus Arvan (2014). First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice. Ethics and Global Politics 7 (3):95-117.
    Theorists have long debated whether John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness can be extended to nonideal (i.e. unjust) social and political conditions, and if so, what the proper way of extending it is. This paper argues that in order to properly extend justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a “nonideal original position.” I begin by providing a new analysis of the ideal/nonideal theory distinction (...)
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  41. Marcus Arvan (2014). Justice as Fairness in a Broken World. Philosophy and Public Issues 4 (2):95-126.
    In Ethics for a Broken World: Imagining Philosophy after Catastrophe, Tim Mulgan applies a number of influential moral and political theories to a “broken world”: a world of environmental catastrophe in which resources are insufficient to meet everyone’s basic needs. This paper shows that John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness has very different implications for a broken world than Mulgan suggests it does. §1 briefly summarizes Rawls’ conception of justice, including how Rawls uses a hypothetical model – the “original (...)
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  42. Daniel Attas (2008). The Difference Principle and Time. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (2):209-232.
    Rawls's difference principle contains a certain normative ambiguity, so that opposing views, including strong inegalitarian ones, might find a home under it. The element that introduces this indeterminacy is the absence of an explicit reference to time . Thus, a society that agrees on the difference principle as the proper justification of basic political-economic institutions, might nevertheless disagree on whether their specific institutions are justified by that principle. Such disagreement would most often centre on issues of fact: will a more (...)
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  43. Catherine Audard (2011). Rawls and Habermas on the Place of Religion in the Political Domain. In James Gordon Finlayson & Fabian Freyenhagen (eds.), Habermas and Rawls: Disputing the Political. Rouledge.
  44. Catherine Audard (2006). John Rawls. Routledge.
    John Rawls 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. This book introduces his central ideas and examines their contribution to contemporary political thought. In the first part of the book Catherine Audard focuses on Rawls' conception of political and social justice and its justification as presented in his groundbreaking A Theory of Justice. This includes (...)
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  45. Catherine Audard (2006). Peace or Justice? Some Remarks on Rawls's Law of Peoples. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 60 (237):301-326.
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  46. Catherine Audard (ed.) (2004). Rawls: Politique Et Métaphysique. Presses Universitaire de France.
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  47. Catherine Audard (2002). Rawls in France. European Journal of Political Theory 1 (2):215-227.
    The reception of Rawls in France has been an extremely complex story where forces of innovation have been, in the end, overwhelmed by the resistance of `philosophical nationalism'. This is surprising as, in many ways, France was going through tremendous changes and modernization at the time of the translation of A Theory of Justice in 1987. In that context, Rawls's project seemed to have something useful and suggestive to offer: bridging the gap between freedom and equality in a new version (...)
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  48. Catherine Audard (1995). The Idea of “Free Public Reason”. Ratio Juris 8 (1):15-29.
    In this paper the nature and the role of Rawls's idea of a “free public reason” are examined with an emphasis on the divide between the private and the public spheres, a divide which is the hallmark of a liberal democracy. Criticisms from both the so-called Continental tradition and the Communitarian opponents to liberalism insist on the ineffectiveness of such a conception, on its inability to establish a political consensus on democracy. But it would be a mistake to see a (...)
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  49. Catherine Audard (1994). Consensus and Democracy. An Anglo-French Conference on John Rawls. Ratio Juris 7 (3):267-271.
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  50. C. Audardova (1993). Rawls, John and the Conception of Politics. Filosoficky Casopis 41 (2):251-276.
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