Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Book Club: A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls

It is my turn to organise the next round of the book club. We'll be discussing 'A Theory of Justice' (1971) by John Rawls. The meeting will take place in 'The Duke' pub off Grafton St., at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 4th November.

It is not possible to get the book for free online, at least to the best of my knowledge (I've looked all over the place). Given this, let's just forget about the fact that there are two revised editions (1975 and 1999). Whatever people get their hands on will have to do. Bear in mind that this is not a bad tome to have on your bookshelf - it's often referred to as the best work in political philosophy of the last century (at least that's what I have been reading about it this evening). For those reluctant to splash out, you can read extracts (though not print) thanks to Google and Oxford Press: here

Some Background Information:

John Rawls (February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American philosopher, a professor of political philosophy at Harvard University and author of A Theory of Justice (1971), revised in 1975 and 1999. Rawls was a recipient of 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's thought "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

According to Robert Cavalier (Carnegie Mellon) and Charles Ess (Drury College), "Rawls's theory of justice revolves around the adaptation of two fundamental principles of justice which would, in turn, guarantee a just and morally acceptable society. The first principle guarantees the right of each person to have the most extensive basic liberty compatible with the liberty of others. The second principle states that social and economic positions are to be (a) to everyone's advantage and (b) open to all.

A key problem for Rawls is to show how such principles would be universally adopted... He introduces a theoretical "veil of ignorance" in which all the "players" in the social game would be placed in a situation which is called the "original position." Having only a general knowledge about the facts of "life and society," each player is to make a "rationally prudential choice" concerning the kind of social institution they would enter into contract with. By denying the players any specific information about themselves it forces them to adopt a generalized point of view that bears a strong resemblance to the moral point of view."

1 comment:

Molly said...

This is great info to know.