Ariadne's Thread on Justice
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Rawls' Aims

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John Speaking
Let me try to start us off. John Rawls published his most famous and influential book, A Theory of Justice, in 1971. Everyone agrees that the book was a milestone that gave new life to political philosophy in America. 

I thought that I would start by trying to say what Rawls is attempting to do in his Theory of Justice.

It's a large book; but, speaking very broadly, he wants to do the following:

  • Formulate principles of justice that can be applied to the basic structure of society.
  • Supply persuasive reasons for accepting those principles.
  • Reduce the problem of finding principles of justice to what he calls pure procedure. In other words, he hopes to define a procedure such that if it is followed, the principles it produces are the acceptable and appropriate principles of justice simply because they are produced using that procedure.
  • Show that a society based on his principles of justice is feasible and would be stable.
  • Criticize alternative theories of justice such as theories based on the ethical principle of utility.

We've all been reading Rawls. Ayesha, can you say something about justice and basic social structure?


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