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Sunday, October 14, 2018

John Rawls and justice

John Rawls (1921-2002) was an American political philosopher best known for his analysis of justice and the 'original position' thought experiment. Economist Will Hutton said,


"This means society should build what Rawls calls an 'infrastructure of justice' that ensures everyone has access to key primary goods - some reasonable level of income and material wellbeing, opportunity and basic rights and liberties - which allow them to consider they have been given a proper chance to achieve full membership of society."


Writer Steven M. Smith said,


"Rawls is a philosopher for our time. His desire is to render both theoretically and practically legitimate and redistributivist polices of the prosperous North Atlantic welfare states." (The Philosopher of Our Times, The New York Sun, 2007)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Rawls.


Original position


"A just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you'd be willing to enter it in a random place." (




"The concept of justice I take to be defined, then, by the role of its principles in assigning rights and duties and in defining the appropriate division of social advantages." (A Theory of Justice, 1971)


"A conception of justice cannot be deduced from self evident premises or conditions on principles; instead, its justification is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations, of everything fitted together into one coherent view." (A Theory of Justice, 1971)




"This organizing idea is that of society as a fair system of social cooperation between free and equal persons viewed as fully cooperating members of society over a complete life." (Political Liberalism, 1993)


"In all sectors of society there should be roughly equal prospects of culture and achievement for everyone similarly motivated and endowed. The expectations of those with the same abilities and aspirations should not be affected by their social class." (A Theory of Justice, 1971)