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Publications on Rawls

Book Cover of "John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice"Books:

John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice

John Rawls, in Beck’sche Reihe Denker

Realizing Rawls





“The Point of the Rawlsian Enterprise” in Romanian, 2008.

“Do Rawls’s Two Theories of Justice Fit Together?” in Rex Martin and David Reidy, eds.: Rawls’s Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia? (Oxford: Blackwell 2006), 206–225.

The Incoherence between Rawls’s Theories of Justice” in Fordham Law Review 72/5 (2004), 1739–1759; reprinted in Thom Brooks, ed. Rawls and Law, (Farnham: Ashgate 2012), 477–97.    Chinese   Chinese, traditional   Spanish

   Abstract: Would it be desirable to reform the global institutional order in conformity with the principles Rawls defends in A Theory of Justice? Rawls himself denies this and proposes a different moral theory (The Law of Peoples) for the relations among self-governing peoples. While sharing a questionable purely recipient-oriented approach, his two theories differ importantly in substance and structure. The former gives weight only to the interests of individual persons, yet the latter gives no weight to these interests at all. The former theory is three-tiered and institutional, centering on a public criterion of justice that is justified through a contractualist thought experiment and in turn justifies particular institutional arrangements and reforms under variable empirical circumstances. Yet, the latter theory is two-tiered and interactional, deploying a contractualist thought experiment to justify rigid rules of good conduct for peoples. Poorly motivated, these asymmetries help Rawls’s anti-cosmopolitan case. But they fail to vindicate his claim that global economic justice demands only a modest “duty of assistance.”

“John Rawls” in Spanish, 2004.

“Rawls, John” in Encyclopedia Americana (Grolier Online 2003)

Mardy Rawls and Thomas Pogge in front of watercolor portrait of John Rawls by Mardy Rawls

Der Zauber des grünen Buches,” in memory of John Rawls, Die Zeit, 28 November 2002, 39; English translation “Memorial for John Rawls: The Magic of the Green Book” in Kantian Review 8 (2004), 153–155.   Chinese   Spanish

Critical Study: “Rawls on International Justice” in Philosophical Quarterly 51/203 (April 2001), 246–253.    Dutch

   Abstract: In The Law of Peoples, Rawls seeks to marshal the power of his contractualist method in support of a more conservative account of international justice. But the divergences are not well defended. Why do the international parties choose institutional rules directly rather than a public criterion of justice for designing such rules? Is their reasoning analogous to the domestic case (maximin)? Why should supporting moral arguments that fail against a domestic application of the difference principle succeed against its global application? Rawls’s most promising explanation of the divergences invokes the need to accommodate the values of “decent” societies. But why are domestic non-liberals denied such accommodation? Why can decent societies not accept that the global order must be justifiable to individuals, and how can liberals concede that it must be justifiable to peoples and not to individuals? And must we accommodate decent societies as a matter of principle or only so long as such actually exist?

“On the Third Principle of Justice Proposed by Burleigh Wilkins” in Aleksandar Jokic, ed.: Essays in Honor of Burleigh Wilkins: From History to Justice (New York: Peter Lang 2001), 287–303.

“A Brief Sketch of Rawls’s Life” in Henry S. Richardson and Paul J. Weithman, eds.: The Philosophy of Rawls, five volumes (New York: Garland Press 1999), volume 1, 1–15.    Chinese   Spanish   Hebrew

“John Rawls” in Robert L. Arrington, ed.: A Companion to the Philosophers (Oxford: Blackwell 1999), 465–469.

Gleiche Freiheit für alle?” 1998; English translation by Dana Tulodziecki “Equal Liberty for All?” in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (2004), 266–281; reprinted in David Reidy, ed.: John Rawls (Aldershot: Ashgate 2008), 219–234; reprinted in Otfried Höffe, ed.: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Leiden: Brill 2013), 95–110.  Spanish  Romanian

   Abstract: Rawls’s first principle requires not only that certain basic liberties be constitutionally recognized, but also that they be secure and effectively exercisable. His First Priority Rule accordingly envisions that basic liberties may be officially restricted when this enhances basic liberties overall by making the remainder more secure. Allowing such restrictions is prudent in the original position. But it can be morally unacceptable — especially in the domain of penal institutions (briefly discussed by Rawls), where the security of basic liberties overall could be greatly enhanced through morally intolerable restrictions of some basic liberties. This discrepancy shows that the purely recipient-oriented perspective of the original position — even with Rawls’s “deontological” priorities for basic liberties and the worst-off — cannot accommodate some of our foremost considered judgments. Rawls’s theory thus fails in its own terms because it ignores the diversity of causal pathways through which institutional design can affect individual life prospects.

Three Problems with Contractarian-Consequentialist Ways of Assessing Social Institutions” in Social Philosophy and Policy 12/2 (June 1995), 241–266 and in Ellen Frankel Paul et al., eds.: The Just Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1995), 241–266.    Chinese   German   Spanish

   Abstract: In our time, political philosophy has come to focus less on the conduct of political actors and more on the arrangement of social institutions or “basic structures” or “regimes.” It is tempting to hold that the moral assessment of such institutional schemes should be guided by (suitably constrained) prudential deliberations in behalf of their prospective participants. This idea leads to a broadly consequentialist assessment of institutional schemes which makes the justice of any such scheme a function of how it (compared to its feasible alternatives) affects its individual participants. Much of current Anglophone political philosophy consists of debates within this general framework: How should the well-being of individuals be measured (utility, primary goods, need fulfillment, capabilities, human rights)? And how should such measurements be aggregated (averaging, sum-ranking, maximin, etc.)? My essay questions the contractarian-consequentialist framework itself, showing that, however specified, it favors institutional schemes that overcompensate for minor natural inequalities (e.g. in cheerfulness and good looks) and fail to maintain fair equality of opportunity when doing so would be expensive. It also favors penal institutions that permit excessive punishments and restrictions of the basic liberties of suspected criminals whenever these lead to greater gains for the security of basic liberties on the whole. In view of these paradoxes, it is time to examine alternatives to the reigning paradigm.

An Egalitarian Law of Peoples” in Philosophy and Public Affairs 23/3 (Summer 1994), 195–224; reprinted with revisions in Jay Drydyk and Peter Penz, eds.: Global Justice, Global Democracy, Socialist Studies volume 12 (Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing 1997), 89–121; reprinted in Henry S. Richardson and Paul J. Weithman, eds.: The Philosophy of Rawls, five volumes (New York: Garland Press 1999), volume 3, 153–182; reprinted in Thom Brooks, ed.: The Global Justice Reader (Oxford: Blackwell 2008), 237–258; and in Global Justice: Seminal Essays.    Chinese   Romanian

Book Cover of "The Global Justice Reader"

   Abstract: In his Amnesty International Lecture and subsequent work, Rawls claims that the parties to an international original position would adopt a “law of peoples” that does not limit international economic inequalities. He reaches this result by describing these parties as representatives of peoples who care only about the justice of their domestic institutions. This description is implausible, as such parties should be presumed to care at least a little also about the affluence of the peoples they represent. But even if one grants Rawls’s description, his conclusion does not follow if the parties know that their country’s relative poverty would render the justice of its domestic institutions vulnerable to corruption from abroad. Rawls has failed to show then either that his parties in the international original position would, or that his readers should, be indifferent to the influence of global institutional arrangements on the incidence of poverty.

Book Review: “John Rawls: Die Idee des politischen Liberalismus” 1993.

Rawls and Global Justice” in Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18/2 (June 1988), 227–256.    Chinese   Spanish

   Abstract: Arguing that our primary moral focus should be on basic social institutions, Rawls urges that the comparative assessment of alternative feasible institutional schemes should be informed by a preeminent concern for their least advantaged individual participants. These commitments militate against his idea of a second, global session of the original position in which only “principles to adjudicate conflicting claims among states” remain to be chosen. And they are completely incompatible with the traditional international-law regime that, Rawls claims, would be endorsed in such a session. Instead, these commitments support the view that our entire global institutional scheme should be assessed and reformed with an eye to its least advantaged individual participants. I defend this conclusion against various external objections, notably those appealing to cultural diversity.

The Interpretation of Rawls’ First Principle of Justice” in Grazer Philosophische Studien 15 (1982), 119–147; reprinted in Henry S. Richardson and Paul J. Weithman, eds.: The Philosophy of Rawls, five volumes (New York: Garland Press 1999) volume 2, 55–83.

The Kantian Interpretation of Justice as Fairness” in Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 35/1 (1981), 47–65.    Chinese

   Abstract: Briefly criticizing the way Rawls connects his view with Kant’s, I provide an alternative: Rawls’s notion of reflective equilibrium is prefigured in Kant’s categorical imperative which serves to isolate, amplify, and systematize the agent’s moral consciousness. Moreover, Rawls’s adaptation resolves the three main problems with Kant’s view. Rejecting Kant’s “practical solipsism,” Rawls acknowledges others not merely as constraints, but also as morally competent partners. Transcending Kant’s rigorism, Rawls shows that we must take into account prevailing non-ideal conditions. Against Kant’s austerity, Rawls insists that as collective subject we cannot ignore our own happiness, as morality would be empty otherwise.









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