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John Rawls (1921-2002) was the most influential political philosopher of the twentieth century. His writing on the nature of justice transformed philosophical and political thought on the subject and his vision of a "well-ordered society", in which all reasonable persons accept a conception of justice as fairness, remains highly influential.

In this superb introduction, Samuel Freeman introduces and assesses the main topics of Rawls's philosophy. Starting with a brief biography and charting the influences on Rawls's 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. A concluding chapter considers Rawls's legacy.

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

About the Author:
Samuel Freeman is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Pennsylvania

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
' important and hugely impressive book. It is straightforward and authoritative, laying out and exploring criticisms in sufficient detail to make clear the underlying philosophical issues.'The Times Literary Supplement

'A monumental study of a monumental theorist. This invaluable resource engages with Rawls's work at every level: it's an exposition, it's a critique, and most importantly it projects an understanding of Rawls's work into the future of political philosophy. On every page, Professor Freeman's attention to detail is suffused by his awareness of the overall structure of the theory and the philosophical significance of Rawls's grand strategy.' – Jeremy Waldron, New York University School of Law, USA

'Sympathetic, comprehensive, thorough, and accessible' – Leif Wenar, University of Sheffield, UK

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415301084
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 7/17/2007
  • Series: Routledge Philosophers Series
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel Freeman is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Rawls.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments     x
List of Abbreviations     xviii
Chronology     xix
Introduction     1
Biography     1
Motivations Underlying Rawls's Lifework     8
Historical Influences     12
Rawls on Justification in Moral Philosophy: Reflective Equilibrium     29
Liberalism, Democracy, and the Principles of Justice     43
The First Principle of Justice: the Basic Liberties     44
Liberty and the Worth of Liberty     59
The Priority of Liberty     64
Some Objections to the Priority of Liberty     72
Summary     79
The Second Principle and Distributive Justice     86
Fair Equality of Opportunity     88
Economic Justice and the Difference Principle     99
Objections to the Difference Principle     115
Fair Equality of Opportunity and the Difference Principle     125
The Just Savings Principle     136
Conclusion     139
The Original Position     141
The Original Position: Description of the Parties and the Conditions on Choice     142
Arguments from the Original Position     167
Conclusion     197
Just Institutions     199
Applying the Principles of Justice: the Four-Stage Sequence     200
The First Principle of Justice: Specification of Constitutional Rights     209
Constitutional Democracy and Its Procedural Requirements     212
Economic Institutions: a Property-owning Democracy     219
The Institution of the Family     235
The Stability of Justice as Fairness Six     243
Stability and the Sense of Justice     245
Moral Motivation and the Development of a Sense of Justice     253
Goodness as Rationality, the Congruence Problem, and the Aristotelian Principle     263
The Good of Justice and the Kantian Congruence Argument     272
Finality and the Priority of Justice     278
Conclusion     282
Kantian Constructivism and the Transition to Political Liberalism     284
Kantian Constructivism     284
The Independence of Moral Theory     310
The Social Role of a Conception of Justice and Problems with the Kantian Interpretation     315
Political Liberalism I - the Domain of the Political Eight     324
The Problem of Political Liberalism     324
A Freestanding Political Conception of Justice     331
Political Constructivism      351
Political Liberalism II - Overlapping Consensus and Public Reason     365
Overlapping Consensus     366
The Liberal Principle of Legitimacy     371
The Idea of Public Reason     381
The Law of Peoples Ten     416
The Law of Nations     416
The Law of Peoples and Political Liberalism     424
Toleration of Decent Societies     429
Human Rights as the Primary Condition of Social Cooperation     435
The Duty of Assistance     439
Distributive Justice and Rawls's Rejection of a Global Distribution Principle     442
Conclusion     455
Conclusion     457
Rawls's Legacy and Influence     457
Concluding Remarks     460
Glossary     463
Notes     485
Bibliography     515
Index     536
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