In this superb introduction, Samuel Freeman introduces and assesses the main topics of Rawls' philosophy. Starting with a brief biography and charting the influences on Rawls' early thinking, he goes on to discuss the heart of Rawls's philosophy: his principles of justice and their practical application to society.

Subsequent chapters discuss Rawls's theories of liberty, political and economic justice, democratic institutions, goodness as rationality, moral psychology, political liberalism, and international justice and a concluding chapter considers Rawls' legacy.

Clearly setting out the ideas in Rawls' masterwork, A Theory of Justice, Samuel Freeman also considers Rawls' other key works, including Political Liberalismand The Law of Peoples. An invaluable introduction to this deeply influential philosopher, Rawlsis essential reading for anyone coming to his work for the first time.


John Rawls was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 21 February 1921, to William Lee and Anna Abele Stump Rawls. He was the second of five sons, two of whom died in childhood. He grew up in Baltimore, where his father practiced law. John Rawls’s mother came from an established and once well-to-do Baltimore family. She was an intelligent and accomplished woman, and an early President of the new League of Women Voters in Baltimore.

His father came from eastern North Carolina, in the area near Greenville. Ill with tuberculosis, his grandfather left North Carolina for Baltimore to be near Johns Hopkins Hospital when Rawls’s father was 12. Needing to help the family financially, his father left school at 14 and took a job as “runner” for a law office. Making use of the firm’s law library in his free time, Rawls’s father taught himself law. With no further formal education, he passed the state bar exam and became a practicing lawyer in 1905, at age 22. In 1911 he became a partner in the law firm of Marbury, Gosnell, and Williams, one of the oldest law firms in the U.S.A. Its founder was the Marbury of the famous Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison (1813), in which Chief Justice Marshall held that the Supreme Court had the power to judicially review the constitutionality of acts of Congress and the Executive branch.

Despite his lack of academic training, Rawls’s father was learned, cultivated, and a highly respected lawyer. As early as 1909, he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court a border dispute between West Virginia and Maryland, and in 1930 he was appointed by . . .

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