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Reconstructing Rawls

The Kantian Foundations of Justice as Fairness

Robert S. Taylor

Publication Year: 2011

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

This book has one overarching goal: to reclaim Rawls for the Enlightenment—more specifically, the Prussian Enlightenment. His so-called political turn in the 1980s, motivated by a newfound interest in pluralism and the accommodation of difference, has been unhealthy for autonomy-based liberalism and has led liberalism more broadly towards cultural relativism, be it in the guise ...


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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-xxiii

In his essay “Two Concepts of Liberalism,” William Galston distinguishes between two varieties of liberal theory.1 The first—Enlightenment liberalism—stresses the development and exercise of our capacity for autonomy, understood as “individual self-direction” and entailing a “sustained rational examination of self, others, and social practices”; this is the liberalism of not only Kant ...

Part One: Kantian Affinities

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Chapter One: Rawls's Kantianism

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pp. 3-56

Numerous scholars have questioned the depth of Rawls’s Kantianism. For example, in their early responses to Theory, Andrew Levine and Oliver Johnson cast aspersions on Rawls’s Kantian credentials, and they were not alone.1 More recently, it has become common for people (especially political liberals) to pointout that §40 of Theory is entitled “A Kantian Interpretation of Justice as Fair- ...

Part Two: Reconstructing Rawls

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Chapter Two: The Kantian Conception of the Person

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pp. 59-114

In chapter 1, I discussed Rawls’s Kantian conception of the person and the way in which it is reflected in particular features of the OP. To recapitulate, Rawls conceives of persons as free and equal rational (i.e., moral) beings, with the moral quality being primary, the other two mostly derivative. As moral beings, we have the two moral powers of reasonableness (moral autonomy) and ratio- ...

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Chapter Three: The Priorities of Right and Political Liberty

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pp. 115-151

The priority of the right over the good is a central feature of Rawls’s doctrine of right and one of its most Kantian elements. Because it has been the target of strong criticism, especially by communitarians, I will briefly review Rawls’s definition and justification of it, arguing that once we augment Rawls’s conception of the first moral power so that it includes a capacity for moral auton- ...

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Chapter Four: The Priority of Civil Liberty

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pp. 152-172

Chapter 3 focused on political liberties, that is, those basic liberties, both core and auxiliary, that serve as institutional expressions and supports of our moral autonomy in the domain of right. The core political liberties are the rights to vote and hold public office, and the auxiliary political liberties include free political thought, speech, press, and assembly as well as minimal protection at ...

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Chapter Five: The Priority of Fair Equality of Opportunity

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pp. 173-191

As discussed in chapter 1, FEO has two distinct components, namely, formal EO (i.e., “careers open to talents”) and substantive EO (which compensates for the social contingencies of family and class). Moreover, “fair [equality of] opportunity is prior to the difference principle” and cannot be sacrificed for its sake (TJ 77, 266). Such priority may seem unnecessary: under what possible...

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Chapter Six: The Difference Principle

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pp. 192-228

Rawls says in Theory that “the force of justice as fairness would appear to arise from two things: the requirement that all inequalities be justified to the least advantaged, and the priority of liberty (TJ 220).” The difference principle (DP), which proclaims that “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are . . . to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged,” conse- ...

Part Three: Kantian Foundations

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Chapter Seven: Justifying the Kantian Conception of the Person

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pp. 231-248

As I have just shown in part 2, the only convincing arguments for the central principles of justice as fairness—the four priorities of right, political liberty, civil liberty, and fair equality of opportunity plus the difference principle—are tightly linked to and even require the radically Kantian conception of the person described in detail in chapter 2. Is this conception particularly compelling, ...

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Chapter Eight: The Poverty of Political Liberalism

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pp. 249-300

In the preceding chapter, I in effect initiated a two-part critique of what Rawls eventually came to call “political liberalism,” which offered a new justificatory basis for justice as fairness. The first part of this critique focuses on Rawls’s proposed solution to the problem of securing a coincidence of wide reflective judgments across persons on a conception of justice, which Rawls sees as “a ...

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Conclusion: Justice as Fairness as a Universalistic Kantian LIberalism

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pp. 301-317

In the second section of chapter 7, I discussed two sets of circumstances in which wide reflective judgments (especially regarding conceptions of the person) of different individuals could potentially coincide—a coincidence that Rawls calls “a necessary condition for objective moral truths” (IMT 290). The second of these was critiqued in the last chapter: a preexisting consensus or ...


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pp. 318-325


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pp. 326-336

Back Cover

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p. 362-362

E-ISBN-13: 9780271053622
E-ISBN-10: 0271053623
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271037721
Print-ISBN-10: 0271037725

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 12 charts/graphs, 2 tables
Publication Year: 2011