42
JOHN RAWLS
John Rawls (1921–), perhaps the most important political philosopher in the twentieth century, was educated at Princeton University and taught at Cornell and Harvard universities. No twentieth-century work in moral and political philosophy has had greater influence on our generation than Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971). Robert Nisbett calls it the “long awaited successor to Rousseau's Social Contract, the Rock on which the Church of Equality can properly be founded in our time.” In scope and power it rivals the classics of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Fundamentally a strong form of liberal egalitarianism, it seeks to justify the welfare state. We have included, as our final reading in this book of classics, Rawls's earlier essay, “Justice as Fairness” (1955), which outlines the central ideas later to become developed in A Theory of Justice.In “Justice as Fairness,” Rawls sets forth a hypothetical contract theory in which participants decide on practices acknowledged “to be fair [and] bind themselves by the duty of fair play to follow the rules when it comes their turn to do so, and this implies a limitation on their pursuit of self-interest in particular cases.” Parties to the contract are to act as rationally self-interested agents, and choose the basic principles which will govern their society. Rawls thinks that these conditions insure objectivity and impartiality of judgment. He calls the system “Justice as Fairness,” because he seeks a contract on whose fairness all parties will agree. In effect, the parties to the contract should choose the kind of principles they could live with if their enemies were assigning them positions in society. Rawls argues that they would choose the following two principles:1. Everyone will have an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible with similar liberty for others.2. “Inequalities are arbitrary unless it is reasonable to expect that they will work out for everyone's advantage, and provided the positions and offices to which they attach, or from which they may be gained, are open to all. These principles express justice as a complex of three ideas: liberty, equality and reward for services contributing to the common good.”It might be pointed out that this two-part second principle will be transformed in A Theory of Justice, where Rawls introduces the difference principle. The second principle will become:2. Social and economic inequalities must satisfy two conditions:
a. They are to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged (“the difference principle”).
b. They are attached to positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

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Classics of Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Time Line xi
  • Part One - The Ancient Period 1
  • 1: The Pre-Socratics 3
  • 2: Plato 20
  • 3: Aristotle 240
  • 4: Epicurus 357
  • 5: Epictetus 363
  • 6: Sextus Empiricus 374
  • 7: Plotinus 391
  • Part Two - The Medieval Period 405
  • 8: Augustine 407
  • 9: Boethius 447
  • 10: Avicenna 455
  • 11: Anselm and Gaunilo 458
  • 12: Thomas Aquinas 462
  • 13: William of Ockham 486
  • Part Three - The Modern Period 493
  • 14: RenÉ Descartes 495
  • 15: Thomas Hobbes 525
  • 16: Blaise Pascal 566
  • 17: Baruch Spinoza 570
  • 18: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 618
  • 19: John Locke 652
  • 20: George Berkeley 690
  • 21: William Paley 723
  • 22: David Hume 726
  • 23: Immanuel Kant 819
  • 24: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 914
  • 25: SØren Kierkegaard 922
  • 26: Mary Wollstonecraft 935
  • 27: John Stuart Mill 942
  • 28: Friedrich Nietzsche 1030
  • Part Four - The Contemporary Period 1059
  • 29: W. K. Clifford 1061
  • 30: Charles Sanders Peirce 1066
  • 31: William James 1076
  • 32: Bertrand Russell 1100
  • 33: G. E. Moore 1142
  • 34: Ludwig Wittgenstein 1150
  • 35: Edmund Husserl 1168
  • 36: Martin Heidegger 1185
  • 37: Jean-Paul Sartre 1207
  • 38: A. J. Ayer 1225
  • 39: Thomas Nagel 1234
  • 40: Philippa Foot 1242
  • 41: Nelson Goodman 1249
  • 42: John Rawls 1254
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