A Theory of Justice 2nd Edition
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“In his magisterial new work...John Rawls draws on the most subtle techniques of contemporary analytic philosophy to provide the social contract tradition with what is, from a philosophical point of view at least, the most formidable defense it has yet received...[and] makes available the powerful intellectual resources and the comprehensive approach that have so far eluded antiutilitarians. He also makes clear how wrong it was to claim, as so many were claiming only a few years back, that systematic moral and political philosophy are dead...Whatever else may be true it is surely true that we must develop a sterner and more fastidious sense of justice. In making his peerless contribution to political theory, John Rawls has made a unique contribution to this urgent task. No higher achievement is open to a scholar.”―Marshall Cohen, New York Times Book Review
“Rawls's Theory of Justice is widely and justly regarded as this century's most important work of political philosophy. Originally published in 1971, it quickly became the subject of extensive commentary and criticism, which led Rawls to revise some of the arguments he had originally put forward in this work...This edition will certainly become the definitive one; all scholars will use it, and it will be an essential text for any academic library. It contains a new preface that helpfully outlines the major revisions, and a 'conversion table' that correlates the pagination of this edition with the original, which will be useful to students and scholars working with this edition and the extensive secondary literature on Rawls's work. Highly recommended.”―J. D. Moon, Choice
“[Rawls] has elucidated a conception of justice which goes beyond anything to be found in Kant or Rousseau. It is a convincing refutation, if one is needed, of any lingering suspicions that the tradition of English-speaking political philosophy might be dead. Indeed, his book might plausibly be claimed to be the most notable contribution to that tradition to have been published since Sidgwick and Mill.”―Times Literary Supplement
“Enlightenment comes in various forms, sometimes even by means of books. And it is a pleasure to recommend...an indigenous American philosophical masterpiece of the first order...I mean...to press my recommendation of [this book] to non-philosophers, especially those holding positions of responsibility in law and government. For the topic with which it deals is central to this country's purposes, and the misunderstanding of that topic is central to its difficulties...And the central idea is simple, elegant, plausible, and easily applied by anybody at any time as a measure of the justice of his own actions.”―Peter Caws, New Republic
“With the simple carpentry of its arguments, its egalitarian leanings, and its preoccupation with fairness, Rawls's classic 1971 work, A Theory of Justice, is as American a book as, say, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”―Will Blythe, Civilization
From the Back Cover
In this book Mr. Rawls attempts to account for these propositions, which he believes express our intuitive convictions of the primacy of justice. The principles of justice he sets forth are those that free and rational persons would accept in an initial position of equality. In this hypothetical situation, which corresponds to the state of nature in social contract theory, no one knows his or her place in society; his or her class position or social status; his or her fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities; his or her intelligence, strength, and the like; or even his or her conception of the good. Thus, deliberating behind a veil of ignorance, people determine their rights and duties. The first, theoretical, section of the book addresses objections to the theory and alternative positions, especially utilitarianism. The author then applies his theory to the philosophical basis of the constitutional liberties, the problem of distributive justice, and the definition of the ground and limits of political duty and obligation. He includes here discussion of the issues of civil disobedience and conscientious objection. Finally, he connects the theory of justice with a doctrine of the good and of moral development. This enables him to formulate a conception of society as a social union of social unions and to use the theory of justice to explain the values of community.
Since the appearance ofthe book in 1971, A Theory of Justice has been translated into 23 languages. Revisions to the original English text have been included in translations since 1975. This new English edition incorporates all those revisions, which the author considers to be significant improvements, especially to the discussions of liberty and primary goods. The Preface for the Revised Edition discusses the revisions in some detail.
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Rawls proposes that we arrive at a conception of Justice using minimal assumptions. He uses something called the "Veil of Ignorance" to derive his principles of Justice. This "Veil of Ignorance" assumes we would act in our own self-interest, but we don't know where in society we would end up. Given these two principles, people actint in their own self-interest but not knowing what place they might occupy in society, Rawls argues that we would come up with two principles of Justice; 1) each person has the most extensive basic liberties that are compatible for everyone having these liberties, and 2) social inequalities will be arranged so that they benefit everyone and such that we all have equal access to beneficial social positions.
(Some reviews here apparently feel that Rawls was trying to describe an historical situation with the Veil of Ignorance. I would suggest that they actually read Rawls.)
What Rawls is arguing is that taking a very minimal assumption about human nature (we rationally act in our own self interest) and assuming that no one knows his or her eventual social position, we will come up with these two principles of Justice (Justice as Fairness). A society is Just if it provides the most extensive set of liberties possible to everyone in the society and if it contains ways to balance social inequalities and provide equal access. Most people (even the Ann Rand folk) would agree with the first principle (equal rights), but likely have problems with the second.
Most of the people writing reviews, I believe, have not really read what Rawls has written or understood what they have read. If you want to disagree with Rawls then you must meet him with argument and reason, and not vituperative comment. I may not agree with everything in this book, but I must first understand Rawls' powerful arguments and reasoning before I can propose alternative ideas. Love him or hate him, Rawls cannot be ignored and neither can this book.
Top international reviews
Like- whenever contradiction between liberty and equality ,which balance of these two is just balace?
Should property right or any other right be fundamental right?
Criteria for any right to be a fundamental right .
Thus designing a just and efficient society and institutions.
After a lot of hard reading and re-reading - actually study - I think I finally digested "A Theory of Justice" Along the way I obtained from Amazon "The Cambridge Companion to Rawls" and a small book, "Sin and Faith," which published his hitherto unpublished Princeton undergraduate thesis (when he was in full religious enthusiasm). The latter was never intended for publication, but was thought by his widow and executor to be of significant value. I thought the thesis was remarkable for his age, but because of its intense religious bias at the time it was of no interest to me. More importantly, the little book included an account of his own religious beliefs and the changes that occurred after he left the Army. I believe the latter is in tune with and helps explain his significant change in belief and its effect on his tour de force, 'Justice.' I will touch on this later. The 'Companion' contains twelve essays concerning Rawls works. I found these very helpful in understanding Rawls - perhaps because the writers were not constrained by the convoluted philosophical language that characterizes some of the paragraphs in philosophical discourse (many subordinate clauses and unfamiliar usage, exceptions in parenthesis and so on) so I had to read and reread to get the exact meaning.
What Rawls has done in this book is construct a finely crafted structure upon which he hoped could be built a guide to the design of an egalitarian democracy. It's as if he was a craftsman cabinetmaker creating a tightly jointed piece of furniture - handsome, but not necessarily to be used practically.
I think one of his aims was to show the weaknesses of utilitarianism and libertarianism, and to show how those philosophies leave out a significant underside portion of the population, and that they might be accommodated under what he calls the "Difference Principle". Utilitarianism has been a governing political and business philosophy for a couple of centuries, but the precedence given libertarianism has plagued North American society, particularly a version which is linked to fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, and more particularly during the period from the Ronald Reagan presidency to that of George W. Bush. It's an "I'm OK, Jack, don't bother me with your problems." To me it is anti-social and its effects have left millions in the US at a disadvantaged level from which they can hardly pull themselves - for example, the health insurance model of health care. His concept of "justice as fairness" and his attempt to have major programs lift up the most disadvantaged are hallmarks of his egalitarianism. and in doing so made ppowerful enemies.
I mentioned in my previous reveiw of "Rawls" that the personal account of him turning away from his former religious position intrigued me. This is because at the end he went to great lengths to assure himself that reason in man could stand alone as opposed to the requirement of a divine origin; with this he coupled a question of how moral philosophy originated.
Quite by chance, I picked up the latest copy of "Scientific American". Had Rawls read the three items I found interesting, I think his view would have cleared. The first report described evidence in primate studies that strongly indicate that morality developed before the ability to reason. Frans de Waal a primatologist and psychologist at Emory University has done work that suggests that our morality is an outgrowth of our ancestor's social tendencies, an indication that it is at least in part an evolved trait (an idea that Charles Darwin shared).
The second point of interest is an article ("When the Sea Saved Humanity," (SCIAM, August 2010, pp.59-61) that describes how human population almost went extinct between 195,000 and 123,000 years ago, during the extended Marine Isotope Stage 6 (MIS6). A small coastal area near the southern tip of Africa was home to the very small remaining human population who are the ancestors of everybody alive today. Changes in DNA during this extended period would be preserved in a single group of humans. Thought to be only hundreds in size the group would ensure a very small divergence in DNA and the uninterrupted isolation would ensure a reinforcement of the original changes. "The discoveries confirm the idea that advanced cognitive abilities evolved earlier than previously thought. . ."
A third article by Michael Shermer argues that because the modern human genome contains from 1% to 3% Neandertals alleles, Neandertals were able to breed with other humans and hence were not a divergent separate species. This explains, along with the DNA changes why most homo sapiens came by a sense of morality naturally without dispersion, and that reason, which developed later, did not require a god to do the work. I think that these items would have given Rawls pause, and perhaps some comfort that, indeed, a god was not required.
As I was reading parts of "Justice I was surprised that Rawls expressed little interest in science as a whole, or evolution in particular. Except for two small mentions this suggests to me that he gave evolutionary explanations little or no credence in the development of morality or reason. In fact, in one place he lumps science along with art, and other human activities as if they were merely interesting hobbies instead of being fundamental to human existence.
Because philosophers since the beginning of the trade have ab initio problems, most have required a first cause. I suggest that their best work, starting with Bacon, was to father the development of the scientific method as a way to answer questions about the world. That has been made amply evident, from Charles Darwin to the placing of Man on the moon.
But we are left to do a lot of thinking about morality. The simplicity of the Golden Rule is sufficient for most of us. Not so the writers of moral philosophy. Even if that sense and our abililty to reason were earlier developments, philosophical deliberation is probably still a necessity. Rawls work is first class evidence of that. Most of us will leave that to the experts. For myself, I find the acceptance by science of a deity as either a first cause or a guiding light is unnecessary.
Although I somehow don"t think it would happen, I recommend that lawyers, judges, politicians and other in public administration should read and benefit from this book.
Now on to Professor Sen. And his "Idea of Justic".
Certamente um livro importante para o conhecimento estudantes de filosofia, direito, sociologia ou qualquer um interessado na temática. Infelizmente chega a ser decepcionante a maneira como o autor procede na elaboração de sua proposta. Chega a ser quase uma grande petição de princípio incoerente cheia de ad hocs.