This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairnessthat John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice butchanges its philosophical interpretation in. John Rawls' Political Liberalism is much more than just an effort to correct what Rawls saw as an error in his masterwork, A Theory of Justice. The political. Page 1. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Page 5. Page 6. Page 7. Page 8. Page 9. Page Page Page Page Page Page Page Page Page

John Rawls Political Liberalism Pdf

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This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairness that John Rawls presented in _A Theory of Justice_ but changes its philosophical interpretation. Political liberalism was born out of a crisis in this principle of legitimacy. The ambition . John Rawls, who has given by far the most detailed account of political. PDF | On Jan 1, , M Kuna and others published The political liberalism of John Rawls.

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Dec DOI: Read More. Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution. Sign in with your library card. This entry reflects Rawls's final statement of his views on justice as fairness, as well as on political liberalism and on the law of peoples.

Recent scholarship on Rawls's work can be found in Further Reading below. The first role is practical: political philosophy can discover grounds for reasoned agreement in a society where sharp divisions threaten to lead to conflict. Rawls cites Hobbes's Leviathan as an attempt to solve the problem of order during the English civil war, and the Federalist Papers as emerging from the debate over the US Constitution.

A second role of political philosophy is to help citizens to orient themselves within their own social world. Philosophy can meditate on what it is to be a member of a certain society, and how the nature and history of that society can be understood from a broader perspective. A third role is to probe the limits of practicable political possibility. Political philosophy must describe workable political arrangements that can gain support from real people. Yet within these limits, philosophy can be utopian: it can depict a social order that is the best that we can hope for.

Given men as they are, as Rousseau said, philosophy imagines how laws might be.

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Philosophy can show that human life is not simply domination and cruelty, prejudice, folly and corruption; but that at least in some ways it is better that it has become as it is. Rawls viewed his own work as a practical contribution to resolving the long-standing tension in democratic thought between liberty and equality, and to limning the limits of civic and of international toleration. He offers the members of his own society a way of understanding themselves as free and equal citizens within a fair democratic polity, and describes a hopeful vision of a stably just constitutional democracy doing its part within a peaceful international community.

To individuals who are frustrated that their fellow citizens and fellow humans do not see the whole truth as they do, Rawls offers the reconciling thought that this diversity of worldviews results from, and can support, a social order with greater freedom for all. Rawls confines his theorizing to the political domain, and within this domain he holds that the correct principles for each sub-domain depend on its particular agents and constraints.

Rawls covers the domain of the political by addressing its sub-domains in sequence. The first sub-domain that he addresses is a self-contained democratic society reproducing itself across generations.


Once principles are in place for such a society, Rawls moves to a second sub-domain: a society of nations, of which this democratic society is a member. Rawls suggests though he does not show that his sequence of theories could extend to cover further sub-domains, such as human interactions with animals.

Universal coverage will have been achieved once this sequence is complete, each sub-domain having received the principles appropriate to it.

Ideal theory makes two types of idealizing assumptions about its subject matter. First, ideal theory assumes that all actors citizens or societies are generally willing to comply with whatever principles are chosen. Ideal theory thus idealizes away the possibility of law-breaking, either by individuals crime or societies aggressive war. Second, ideal theory assumes reasonably favorable social conditions, wherein citizens and societies are able to abide by principles of political cooperation.

Citizens are not so driven by hunger, for example, that their capacity for moral reasoning is overwhelmed; nor are nations struggling to overcome famine or the failure of their states. Completing ideal theory first, Rawls says, yields a systematic understanding of how to reform our non-ideal world, and fixes a vision mentioned above of what is the best that can be hoped for. Once ideal theory is completed for a political sub-domain, non-ideal theory can be set out by reference to the ideal.

For instance, once we find ideal principles for citizens who can be productive members of society over a complete life, we will be better able to frame non-ideal principles for providing health care to citizens with serious illnesses or disabilities. Similarly, once we understand the ideal principles of international relations, we will better see how the international community should act toward failed states, as well as toward aggressive states that threaten the peace.

For Rawls, how justified one is in one's political convictions depends on how close one is to achieving reflective equilibrium. In reflective equilibrium all of one's beliefs, on all levels of generality, cohere perfectly with one another.

Thus, in reflective equilibrium one's specific political judgments e. Viewed from the opposite direction, in reflective equilibrium one's abstract beliefs explain one's more general convictions, which in turn explain one's specific judgments.

Were one to attain reflective equilibrium, the justification of each belief would follow from all beliefs relating in these networks of mutual support and explanation. Though perfect reflective equilibrium is unattainable, we can use the method of reflective equilibrium to get closer to it and so increase the justifiability of our beliefs. In carrying through this method, one begins with one's considered moral judgments: those made consistently and without hesitation when one is under good conditions for thinking e.

One treats these considered judgments as provisional fixed points, and then starts the process of bringing one's beliefs into relations of mutual support and explanation as described above. Doing this inevitably brings out conflicts where, for example, a specific judgment clashes with a more general conviction, or where an abstract principle cannot accommodate a particular kind of case.

One proceeds by revising these beliefs as necessary, striving always to increase the coherence of the whole. Carrying through this process of mutual adjustment brings one closer to narrow reflective equilibrium: coherence among one's initial beliefs.

One then adds to this narrow equilibrium one's responses to the major theories in the history of political philosophy, as well as one's responses to theories critical of political philosophizing as such.

One continues to make adjustments in one's scheme of beliefs as one reflects on these alternatives, aiming for the end-point of wide reflective equilibrium, in which coherence is maintained after many alternatives have been considered. Because of its emphasis on coherence, reflective equilibrium is often contrasted with foundationalism as an account of justified belief. Within foundationalist approaches, some subset of beliefs is considered to be unrevisable, thereby serving as a foundation on which all other beliefs are to be based.

Defending a Law of Peoples: Political Liberalism and Decent Peoples

Reflective equilibrium privileges no such subset of beliefs: any belief at any level of generality is subject to revision, if revision will help to bring one's considered convictions into greater coherence overall. Metaphysical beliefs about free will or personal identity might be relevant, as could epistemological beliefs about how we come to know what moral facts there are.

However, while this is correct in principle, Rawls holds that in practice productive moral and political theorizing will proceed to a large extent independent of metaphysics and epistemology. Indeed, as a methodological presumption Rawls reverses the traditional order of priority. Progress in metaethics will derive from progress in substantive moral and political theorizing, instead of as often assumed vice versa CP, — Rawls's own metaethical theory of the objectivity and validity of political judgments, political constructivism, will be described below, after the substantive political theory from which it emerges.

Political Liberalism: Legitimacy and Stability within a Liberal Society In a free society, citizens will have disparate worldviews. They will believe in different religions or none at all; they will have differing conceptions of right and wrong; they will divide on the value of lifestyles and of forms of interpersonal relationships. Democratic citizens will have contrary commitments, yet within any country there can only be one law. The law must either establish a national church, or not; women must either have equal rights, or not; abortion and gay marriage must either be permissible under the constitution, or not; the economy must be set up in one way or another.

Rawls holds that the need to impose a unified law on a diverse citizenry raises two fundamental challenges. The first is the challenge of legitimacy: the legitimate use of coercive political power.

How can it be legitimate to coerce all citizens to follow just one law, given that citizens will inevitably hold quite different worldviews? The second challenge is the challenge of stability, which looks at political power from the receiving end. Why would a citizen willingly obey the law if it is imposed on her by a collective body many of whose members have beliefs and values quite dissimilar to her own?

Yet unless most citizens willingly obey the law, no social order can be stable for long. Rawls answers these challenges of legitimacy and stability with his theory of political liberalism. Political liberalism is not yet Rawls's theory of justice justice as fairness. Political liberalism answers the conceptually prior questions of legitimacy and stability, so fixing the context and starting points for justice as fairness. In light of the diversity within a democracy, what would it mean for citizens legitimately to exercise coercive political power over one another?

Rawls's test for the acceptable use of political power in a democracy is his liberal principle of legitimacy: Our exercise of political power is fully proper only when it is exercised in accordance with a constitution the essentials of which all citizens as free and equal may reasonably be expected to endorse in the light of principles and ideals acceptable to their common human reason.

PL, According to this principle, political power may only be used in ways that all citizens can reasonably be expected to endorse. The use of political power must fulfill a criterion of reciprocity: citizens must reasonably believe that all citizens can reasonably accept the enforcement of a particular set of basic laws.

Those coerced by law must be able to endorse the society's fundamental political arrangements freely, not because they are dominated or manipulated or kept uninformed. The liberal principle of legitimacy intensifies the challenge of legitimacy: how can any particular set of basic laws legitimately be imposed upon a pluralistic citizenry? What constitution could all citizens reasonably be expected to endorse? Rawls's answer to this challenge begins by explaining what it would mean for citizens to be reasonable.

They are willing to propose and abide by mutually acceptable rules, given the assurance that others will also do so. They will also honor these rules, even when this means sacrificing their own particular interests. Reasonable citizens want, in short, to belong to a society where political power is legitimately used. Each reasonable citizen has her own view about God and life, right and wrong, good and bad.

Each has, that is, what Rawls calls her own comprehensive doctrine. Yet because reasonable citizens are reasonable, they are unwilling to impose their own comprehensive doctrines on others who are also willing to search for mutually agreeable rules.

Though each may believe that she knows the truth about the best way to live, none is willing to force other reasonable citizens to live according to her beliefs, even if she belongs to a majority that has the power to enforce those beliefs on everyone. One reason that reasonable citizens are so tolerant, Rawls says, is that they accept a certain explanation for the diversity of worldviews in their society.

Reasonable citizens accept the burdens of judgment. The deepest questions of religion, philosophy, and morality are very difficult even for conscientious people to think through.

People will answer these questions in different ways because of their own particular life experiences their upbringing, class, occupation, and so on. Reasonable citizens understand that these deep issues are ones on which people of good will can disagree, and so will be unwilling to impose their own worldviews on those who have reached conclusions different than their own.

This capacity gives hope that the diversity of worldviews in a democratic society may represent not merely pluralism, but reasonable pluralism. Rawls hopes, that is, that the religious, moral, and philosophical doctrines that citizens accept will themselves endorse toleration and accept the essentials of a democratic regime.

In the religious sphere for example a reasonable pluralism might contain a reasonable Catholicism, a reasonable interpretation of Islam, a reasonable atheism, and so on. Being reasonable, none of these doctrines will advocate the use of coercive political power to impose conformity on those with different beliefs. The possibility of reasonable pluralism softens but does not solve the challenge of legitimacy: how a particular set of basic laws can legitimately be imposed on a diverse citizenry.

Public Reason and Bioethics

For even in a society of reasonable pluralism, it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to endorse, say, a reasonable Catholicism as the basis for a constitutional settlement. Reasonable Muslims or atheists cannot be expected to endorse Catholicism as setting the basic terms for social life.

Nor, of course, can Catholics be expected to accept Islam or atheism as the fundamental basis of law. No comprehensive doctrine can be accepted by all reasonable citizens, and so no comprehensive doctrine can serve as the basis for the legitimate use of coercive political power.

Yet where else then to turn to find the ideas that will flesh out society's most basic laws, which all citizens will be required to obey? Since justification is addressed to others, it proceeds from what is, or can be, held in common; and so we begin from shared fundamental ideas implicit in the public political culture in the hope of developing from them a political conception that can gain free and reasoned agreement in judgment.

PL, —01 There is only one source of fundamental ideas that can serve as a focal point for all reasonable citizens of a liberal society. This is the society's public political culture. Rawls looks to fundamental ideas implicit, for example, in the design of the society's government, in the constitutional list of individual rights, and in the historic decisions of important courts.

These fundamental ideas from the public political culture can be crafted into a political conception of justice. A political conception of justice is an interpretation of the fundamental ideas implicit in that society's public political culture. A political conception is not derived from any particular comprehensive doctrine, nor is it a compromise among the worldviews that happen to exist in society at the moment.

Rather a political conception is freestanding: its content is set out independently of the comprehensive doctrines that citizens affirm. Reasonable citizens, who want to cooperate with one another on mutually acceptable terms, will see that a freestanding political conception generated from ideas in the public political culture is the only basis for cooperation that all citizens can reasonably be expected to endorse.

The use of coercive political power guided by the principles of a political conception of justice will therefore be legitimate. The three most fundamental ideas that Rawls finds in the public political culture of a democratic society are that citizens are free and equal, and that society should be a fair system of cooperation. All liberal political conceptions of justice will therefore be centered on interpretations of these three fundamental ideas. Since all the members of this family interpret the same fundamental ideas, however, all liberal political conceptions of justice will share certain basic features: A liberal political conception of justice will ascribe to all citizens familiar individual rights and liberties, such as rights of free expression, liberty of conscience, and free choice of occupation; A political conception will give special priority to these rights and liberties, especially over demands to further the general good e.

These abstract features must, Rawls says, be realized in certain kinds of institutions. He mentions several features that all societies that are ordered by a liberal political conception will share: fair opportunities for all citizens especially in education and training ; a decent distribution of income and wealth; government as the employer of last resort; basic health care for all citizens; and public financing of elections.

By Rawls's criteria, a libertarian conception of justice such as Nozick's in Anarchy, State, and Utopia is not a liberal political conception of justice. Libertarianism does not assure all citizens sufficient means to make use of their basic liberties, and it permits excessive inequalities of wealth and power.

By contrast, Rawls's own conception of justice justice as fairness does qualify as a member of the family of liberal political conceptions of justice. The use of political power in a liberal society will be legitimate if it is employed in accordance with the principles of any liberal conception of justice—justice as fairness, or some other.

Yet the challenge of stability remains: why will citizens willingly obey the law as specified by a liberal political conception? Legitimacy means that the law may permissibly be enforced; Rawls still needs to explain why citizens have reasons, from within their own points of view, to abide by such a law. If citizens do not believe they have such reasons, social order may disintegrate. Rawls places his hopes for social stability on an overlapping consensus.

In an overlapping consensus, citizens all endorse a core set of laws for different reasons. In Rawlsian terms, each citizen supports a political conception of justice for reasons internal to her own comprehensive doctrine. Recall that the content of a political conception is freestanding: it is specified without reference to any comprehensive doctrine.

Here is an example. The quotation below from the second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church shows how a particular comprehensive doctrine Catholicism affirms one component of a liberal political conception a familiar individual liberty from within its own perspective: This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.

John Rawls

This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.Habermas's practical discourses do not know any limitations for relying on comprehensive doctrines.

If the additional arguments are freestanding, therefore not part of a certain comprehensive doctrine, then the principle of the public use of reason is not violated. A Restatement. Rawls sees an overlapping consensus as the most desirable form of stability in a free society. History of Western Philosophy. Then in the s Rawls spoke out against America's military actions in Vietnam. Nor does Mill provide a well-defined road map what might be called a virtuous circle, education and about when the state should intervene to ensure equality would expand the human mind, which would justice.

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