John Rawls

Rawls, John Bordley

John Bordley Rawls, 1921–2002, American philosopher and political theorist, b. Baltimore, grad. Princeton (A.B., 1943; Ph.D., 1950). He taught at Princeton (1950–52), Cornell (1953–59), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1960–62) before becoming (1962) professor of philosophy at Harvard. Rawls's chief work, A Theory of Justice (1971, 2d ed. 1999), has been called the 20th century's most influential work of liberal political philosophy. In it, he attempts, within the social contract tradition of Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, to offer an alternative to utilitarian political philosophy (see utilitarianism). His system was developed from two basic principles: Each person has a right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with like liberty for others, and inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power are just only when they can be reasonably expected to work to the advantage of those who are worst off. For Rawls, justice does not require equality in social position, but it does require that people share one another's fate.

Providing the social contract tradition with a formidable philosophic defense by balancing the claims of liberty and equality, Rawls's book revived interest in systematic political theory. His other works include The Law of Peoples (1999) and Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (2000). He restated and enlarged the arguments of his 1971 magnum opus, replying to his critics and correcting what he perceived as mistakes in the original work while aiming at a broader audience, in his Justice as Fairness (2001). Rawls's liberalism has often been compared to the conservatism of his fellow Harvard philosophy professor, Robert Nozick.

See studies by B. M. Barry (1973), R. P. Wolff (1977), D. L. Schaefer (1979), A. Pampapathy Rao (1979, 1981, and 1998), R. Martin (1985), T. W. Pogge (1989), C. Kukathas and P. Pettit (1990), J. A. Corlett, ed. (1991), R. Alejandro (1998), D. A. Dombrowski (2001), and R. B. Talisse (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

John Rawls: Selected full-text books and articles

Rawls By Samuel Freeman Routledge, 2007
John Rawls By Catherine Audard Routledge, 2014
The Cambridge Companion to Rawls By Samuel Freeman Cambridge University Press, 2003
Political Liberalism By John Rawls Columbia University Press, 1996
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement By John Rawls; Erin Kelly Harvard University Press, 2001
Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy By John Rawls; Samuel Freeman Belknap Press, 2007
Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology By Derek Matravers; Jon Pike Routledge, 2003
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Illiberal Justice: John Rawls vs. the American Political Tradition By David Lewis Schaefer University of Missouri Press, 2007
Rawls "A Theory of Justice" and Its Critics By Meikle, Victoria McGill Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, April 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Confucius, Rawls, and the Sense of Justice By Erin M. Cline Fordham University Press, 2013
Reasonable Democracy: Jürgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse By Simone Chambers Cornell University Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "John Rawls and the Freedom and Equality of Citizens"
Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought By Samuel Scheffler Oxford University Press, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 9 "Rawls and Utilitarianism"
The Political Classics: Green to Dworkin By Murray Forsyth; Maurice Keens-Soper Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 10 "John Rawls: A Theory of Justice"
In Memoriam By Sterba, James P The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 56, No. 3, March 2003
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