<history of philosophy, biography> American political philosopher born in 1921. As presented in A Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls's concept of "justice as fairness" offers a non-historical or hypothetical variation on the social contract theory, in which rational agents make social decisions from behind a "veil of ignorance" that prevents them from knowing in advance what status they will hold. According to Rawls, this method will produce a society where individual liberties are maximized for all citizens and social inequality is justifiable only under conditions that would be beneficial for its least-favored members. Further exposition of this theory, along with a restatement Rawls's opposition to utilitarianism and an examination of political pluralism, appear in Political Liberalism (1993). Two Concepts of Rules (1955) is an early statement of Rawls's basic principles. Recommended Reading: John Rawls, Collected Papers, ed. by Samuel Freeman (Harvard, 2001); John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Harvard, 2001); Chandran Kukathas and Philip Pettit, Rawls: A Theory of Justice and Its Critics (Stanford, 1991); and Reading Rawls: Critical Studies on Rawl's 'A Theory of Justice', ed. by Norman Daniels (Stanford, 1989).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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