John Bordley Rawls
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Rawls, John Bordley,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 LockeLocke, John
, 1632–1704, English philosopher, founder of British empiricism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to freedom of conscience and right to property, in his faith in science, and in his confidence in the goodness of
..... Click the link for more information. , RousseauRousseau, Jean Jacques
, 1712–78, Swiss-French philosopher, author, political theorist, and composer. Life and Works
Rousseau was born at Geneva, the son of a Calvinist watchmaker.
..... Click the link for more information. , and KantKant, Immanuel
, 1724–1804, German metaphysician, one of the greatest figures in philosophy, b. Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Early Life and Works
..... Click the link for more information. , to offer an alternative to utilitarian political philosophy (see utilitarianismutilitarianism
, in ethics, the theory that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its usefulness in bringing about the most happiness of all those affected by it.
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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 NozickNozick, Robert,
1938–2002, American political philosopher, b. Brooklyn, N.Y.; grad. Columbia Univ. (B.A., 1959), Princeton (M.A., 1961; Ph.D., 1963). After teaching at Princeton and Rockefeller Univ.
..... Click the link for more information. .
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).