Attila Tanyi
University of Tromsø
This paper deals with the third and most disputed principle of John Rawls’s theory of justice: the so-called difference principle. My reasoning has three parts. I first present and examine the principle. My investigation is driven by three questions: what considerations lead Rawls to the acceptance of the principle; what the principle’s relation to effectiveness is; and what and how much the principle demands. A proper understanding of the principle permits me to spend the second half of the paper with exploring the difficulties the principle encounters. I first discuss four well-known objections and argue that all of them, partly or entirely, hold against the principle. I then discuss the applicability of the principle with special attention to the relations among the three Rawlsian principles and the notion of the social minimum. Investigation of the first issue shows that the two other principles leave enough room for the difference principle, whereas in the second case I conclude that parties to the Rawlsian original position would prefer a social minimum principle to the difference principle. Finally, at the end of the paper, I briefly summarize my reasoning repeating its most important findings.
Keywords justice  Rawls  difference principle  efficiency
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Political Theory and International Relations.Charles Beitz - 1979 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Fair Equality of Opportunity.Larry A. Alexander - 1985 - Philosophy Research Archives 11:197-208.
Just Savings and the Difference Principle.Steven Wall - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 116 (1):79-102.
Rescuing Justice From Equality.Steven Wall - 2012 - Social Philosophy and Policy 29 (1):180-212.
A Modified Rawlsian Theory of Social Justice: “Justice as Fair Rights”.Rodney G. Peffer - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 50:593-608.
Rawls and Natural Aristocracy.Matthew Clayton - 2001 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 1 (3):239-259.
Xxxx. Xxxx - 2007 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (2):193-217.
Incentives, Inequality and Self-Respect.Richard Penny - 2013 - Res Publica 19 (4):335-351.
Rawls' Paradox.Jason Brennan - 2007 - Constitutional Political Economy 18:287-299.


Added to PP index

Total views
167 ( #60,920 of 2,438,660 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #82,229 of 2,438,660 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes