John Rawls

John Bordley Rawls (February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American philosopher and a leading figure in moral and political philosophy. He held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University and the Fulbright Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford. His magnum opus, A Theory of Justice (1971), was hailed at the time of its publication as "the most important work in moral philosophy since the end of World War II," and is now regarded as "one of the primary texts in political philosophy." His work in political philosophy, dubbed Rawlsianism, takes as its starting point the argument that "most reasonable principles of justice are those everyone would accept and agree to from a fair position." Rawls employs a number of thought experiments — including the famous veil of ignorance — to determine what constitutes a fair agreement in which "everyone is impartially situated as equals," in order to determine principles of social justice. He is one of the major thinkers in the tradition of liberal political philosophy.[citation needed] English philosopher Jonathan Wolff argues that "while there might be a dispute about the second most important political philosopher of the 20th century, there could be no dispute about the most important: John Rawls. His student Samuel Freeman says that Rawls’s work will be recognized 'for centuries to come.'" Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself." John Rawls is also the subject of an upcoming musical; a fictionalized account of the creation of A Theory of Justice. Continue Reading »

A Theory of Justice
Political Liberalism
The Law of Peoples

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