February 21, 1921|
|Died||November 24, 2002
|Awards||Rolf Schock Prizes in Logic and Philosophy (1999)|
As faculty member
John Bordley Rawls (//; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral and political philosopher. He held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University and the Fulbright Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford. 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's work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."
His magnum opus, A Theory of Justice (1971), was said at the time of its publication to be "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 "the most reasonable principles of justice are those everyone would accept and agree to from a fair position". Rawls attempts to determine the principles of social justice by employing a number of thought experiments such as the famous original position in which everyone is impartially situated as equals behind a veil of ignorance. He is one of the major thinkers in the tradition of liberal political philosophy. According to English philosopher Jonathan Wolff, while there could 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".
- 1 Biography
- 2 Contribution to political and moral philosophy
- 3 Philosophical thought
- 4 Awards and honors
- 5 Publications
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
John Rawls was born in Baltimore, Maryland to William Lee Rawls, "one of the most prominent attorneys in Baltimore", and Anna Abell Stump Rawls. The second of five sons, tragedy struck Rawls at a young age.
Two of his brothers died in childhood because they had contracted fatal illnesses from him.... In 1928, the seven-year-old Rawls contracted diphtheria. His brother Bobby, younger by 20 months, visited him in his room and was fatally infected. The next winter, Rawls contracted pneumonia. Another younger brother, Tommy, caught the illness from him and died.
Rawls attended school in Baltimore for a short time before transferring to Kent School, an Episcopalian preparatory school in Connecticut. Upon graduation in 1939, Rawls attended Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and was accepted into The Ivy Club and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. During his last two years at Princeton he "became deeply concerned with theology and its doctrines". He considered attending a seminary to study for the Episcopal priesthood.
Military Service, 1943-46
During World War II, Rawls served as an infantryman in the Pacific, where he toured New Guinea to win a Bronze Star; and the Philippines, where he endured intensive trench warfare and witnessed horrific scenes.
Following the surrender of Japan, Rawls became part of General MacArthur's occupying army, and was promoted to Sergeant. But he became disillusioned with the military when he saw the aftermath of the atomic blast in Hiroshima. He then disobeyed an order to discipline a fellow soldier, believing no punishment was justified, and was demoted back to private. Disenchanted, he left the military in January 1946.
In early 1946, Rawls returned to Princeton to pursue a doctorate in moral philosophy.
After earning his PhD from Princeton in 1950, Rawls taught there until 1952, when he received a Fulbright Fellowship to Oxford University (Christ Church), where he was influenced by the liberal political theorist and historian Isaiah Berlin and the legal theorist H. L. A. Hart. After returning to the United States, he served first as an assistant and then associate professor at Cornell University. In 1962, he became a full professor of philosophy at Cornell, and soon achieved a tenured position at MIT. That same year, he moved to Harvard University, where he taught for almost forty years, and where he trained some of the leading contemporary figures in moral and political philosophy, including Thomas Nagel, Onora O'Neill, Adrian Piper, Christine Korsgaard, Susan Neiman, Claudia Card, Thomas Pogge, T.M. Scanlon, Barbara Herman, Joshua Cohen, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Gurcharan Das, Samuel Freeman, and Paul Weithman.
Rawls seldom gave interviews and, having both a stutter and a "bat-like horror of the limelight", did not become a public intellectual despite his fame. He instead remained committed mainly to his academic and family life.
In 1995 he suffered the first of several strokes, severely impeding his ability to continue to work. He was nevertheless able to complete a book titled The Law of Peoples, the most complete statement of his views on international justice, and shortly before his death in November 2002 published Justice As Fairness: A Restatement, a response to criticisms of A Theory of Justice.
Contribution to political and moral philosophy
Rawls is noted for his contributions to liberal political philosophy. Among the ideas from Rawls's work that have received wide attention are:
- Justice as Fairness
- Original position
- Reflective equilibrium
- Overlapping consensus
- Public reason
- Veil of ignorance
There is general agreement in academia that the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971 was important to a revival, following its release, in the academic study of political philosophy. His work has crossed disciplinary lines, receiving serious attention from economists, legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, healthcare resource allocators, and theologians. Rawls has the unique distinction among contemporary political philosophers of being frequently cited by the courts of law in the United States and Canada and referred to by practicing politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Rawls published three books. The first, A Theory of Justice, focused on distributive justice and attempted to reconcile the competing claims of the values of freedom and equality. The second, Political Liberalism, addressed the question of how citizens divided by intractable religious and philosophical disagreements could come to endorse a constitutional democratic regime. The third, The Law of Peoples, focused on the issue of global justice.
A Theory of Justice
Rawls's first work, published in 1971, aimed to resolve the seemingly competing claims of freedom and equality. The shape Rawls's resolution took, however, was not that of a balancing act that compromised or weakened the moral claim of one value compared with the other. Rawls's intent, rather, was to show that notions of freedom and equality could be integrated into a seamless unity he called justice as fairness. By explaining the proper perspective we should take when thinking about justice, Rawls hoped to show the supposed conflict between freedom and equality to be illusory.
The Original Position
Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971) includes a thought experiment he called the "original position." The intuition motivating its employment is this: the enterprise of political philosophy will be greatly benefited by a specification of the correct standpoint a person should take in his or her thinking about justice. When we think about what it would mean for a just state of affairs to obtain between persons, we eliminate certain features (such as hair or eye color, height, race, etc.) and fixate upon others. Rawls's original position is meant to encode all of our intuitions about which features are relevant, and which irrelevant, for the purposes of deliberating well about justice.
The original position is a hypothetical scenario in which a group of persons is set the task of reaching an agreement about the political and economic structure of a society which they are, once an agreement has been reached, to occupy. Each individual, however, deliberates behind a "veil of ignorance." Each lacks knowledge, for example, of his or her gender, race, age, intelligence, wealth, skills, education, and religion. The only thing a given member knows about himself is that he is in possession of the basic capacities necessary for him to fully and willfully participate in an enduring system of mutual cooperation; each knows he can be a member of society. Rawls believes there are two such basic capacities which the individuals know themselves to possess. First, each individual knows that he has the capacity to form, pursue, and revise a conception of the good, or life plan. Exactly what sort of conception of the good this is, however, the individual does not know. It may be, for example, religious or secular, but the individual in the original position does not know which. Second, each individual understands himself to have the capacity to develop a sense of justice and a generally effective desire to abide by it. Knowing only these two features of himself, each individual will deliberate in order to design a social structure that will secure himself maximal advantage. The idea is that proposals we would ordinarily think of as unjust - such as that blacks or women should not be allowed to hold public office - will not be proposed in the original position because it would be irrational to propose them.
Rawls develops his original position by modeling it, in certain respects at least, after the "initial situations" of various social contract thinkers who came before him, including Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (each social contractarian constructs his/her initial situation somewhat differently, having in mind a unique political morality s/he intends the thought experiment to generate). Iain King has suggested the original position draws on Rawls' experiences in post-war Japan, where the US Army was challenged with designing new social and political authorities for the country, while "imagining away all that had gone before."
Rawls's aspiration is to have created a thought experiment whereby the preliminary stage of the ordinary process of deliberation about justice - the stage, that is, in which we make decisions about which features of persons to consider and which to ignore - is carried to its completion. If he has succeeded, then the original position may function as a full specification of the moral standpoint we should take when deliberating about social justice.
Despite the amount of attention received by Rawls's original position, equally if not more important is his concept of "reflective equilibrium." This latter concept is Rawls's account of how deliberation about morality in general, but justice in particular, should proceed, and it serves as the metatheoretical frame within which the concept of the original position is situated.
Reflective equilibrium is essentially a three-step process whereby one (1) identifies a group of considered judgments about justice (intuitions about justice that strike one as relatively secure, such as that slavery and religious persecution are unjust), (2) attempts to explain and justify these considered judgments by discovering what (relatively more abstract) principles of justice can serve as their foundation, and (3) addresses any lack of fit between the principles one has arrived at and considered judgments about justice other than the group from which one started.
To give an example: suppose I begin with a considered judgment that a restaurant's denying service to a person simply because he is black or Jewish is unjust, and proceed to account for this judgment by a principle which says that discrimination based upon nothing other than race is unjust, or (alternatively) that from the standpoint of justice, race is a morally irrelevant feature of a person. But then suppose I have another considered conviction about the justice of affirmative action; let's say I think race is a feature of a person that institutions of higher learning should take account of in their admissions procedures. If my conception of justice is to be internally coherent, I will be forced to negotiate the apparent conflict between the principle of justice I used to account for my initial considered judgment, on the one hand, and the considered judgment with which the principle conflicts, on the other. Rawls held that there will inevitably be give and take between a person's first-order judgments about justice and the higher order commitments that take the form of principles of justice. "Reflective equilibrium," then, is the name both for the ideal state in which all of a person's considered convictions about justice are in harmony with their more abstract principles of justice, and for the procedure whereby this state is reached.
There is a sense that Rawls's concept of reflective equilibrium is nothing other than a description of our common sense method of reasoning about morality. But Rawls's explicit endorsement of this method cut against the philosophical grain of his time in at least one important respect, for it amounts to a rejection of the absolute priority of principles on display in a work like Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). In that work, an abstract moral principle introduced at the beginning of the work - roughly, the plenary right of individuals to self-ownership, property, and contract - is used to bulldoze other, more concrete moral intuitions, such as that it is unjust for employers to discriminate based on race, or that it is unjust to allow someone in need of emergency care to die due to their inability to pay for treatment. By refusing to privilege principles over concrete considered judgments, Rawls's concept of reflective equilibrium may be interpreted as a reaction against and prophylactic to the principle-heavy arguments of political philosophers past and present. However, it can be added that the concept of 'reflective equilibrium' (as well as the expression itself) was originally introduced by Nelson Goodman's "New Riddle of Induction" in Chapter 3 of Goodman's book Fact, Fiction and Forecast.
Principles of Justice
Rawls derives two principles of justice from the original position. The first of these is the Liberty Principle, which establishes equal basic liberties for all citizens. 'Basic' liberty entails the (familiar in the liberal tradition) freedoms of conscience, association, and expression as well as democratic rights; Rawls also includes a personal property right, but this is defended in terms of moral capacities and self-respect, rather than an appeal to a natural right of self-ownership (this distinguishes Rawls's account from the classical liberalism of John Locke and the libertarianism of Robert Nozick).
Rawls argues that a second principle of equality would be agreed upon to guarantee liberties that represent meaningful options for all in society and ensure distributive justice. For example, formal guarantees of political voice and freedom of assembly are of little real worth to the desperately poor and marginalized in society. Demanding that everyone have exactly the same effective opportunities in life would almost certainly offend the very liberties that are supposedly being equalized. Nonetheless, we would want to ensure at least the "fair worth" of our liberties: wherever one ends up in society, one wants life to be worth living, with enough effective freedom to pursue personal goals. Thus participants would be moved to affirm a two-part second principle comprising Fair Equality of Opportunity and the famous (and controversial) difference principle. This second principle ensures that those with comparable talents and motivation face roughly similar life chances and that inequalities in society work to the benefit of the least advantaged.
Rawls held that these principles of justice apply to the "basic structure" of fundamental social institutions (such as the judiciary, the economic structure, the political constitution), a qualification that has been the source of some controversy and constructive debate (the work of Gerald Cohen).
Rawls further argued that these principles were to be 'lexically ordered' to award priority to basic liberties over the more equality-oriented demands of the second principle. This has also been a topic of much debate among moral and political philosophers.
Finally, Rawls took his approach as applying in the first instance to what he called a "well-ordered society ... designed to advance the good of its members and effectively regulated by a public conception of justice". In this respect, he understood justice as fairness as a contribution to "ideal theory", the determination of "principles that characterize a well-ordered society under favorable circumstances". Much recent work in political philosophy has asked what justice as fairness might dictate (or indeed, whether it is very useful at all) for problems of "partial compliance" under "nonideal theory."
In Political Liberalism (1993), Rawls turned towards the question of political legitimacy in the context of intractable philosophical, religious, and moral disagreement amongst citizens regarding the human good. Such disagreement, Rawls insisted, was reasonable - the result of the free exercise of human rationality under the conditions of open enquiry and free conscience that the liberal state is designed to safeguard. The question of legitimacy in the face of reasonable disagreement was urgent for Rawls because his own justification of Justice as Fairness relied upon a (Kantian) conception of the human good that can be reasonably rejected. If the political conception offered in A Theory of Justice can only be shown to be good by invoking a controversial conception of human flourishing, it is unclear how a liberal state ordered according to it could possibly be legitimate.
The intuition animating this seemingly new concern is actually no different from the guiding idea of A Theory of Justice, namely, that the fundamental charter of a society must rely only on principles, arguments, and reasons that cannot be reasonably rejected by the citizens whose lives will be limited by its social, legal, and political circumscriptions. In other words, the legitimacy of a law is contingent upon its justification being impossible to reasonably reject. This old insight took on a new shape, however, when Rawls realized that its application must extend to the deep justification of Justice as Fairness itself, which he had presented in terms of a reasonably rejectable (Kantian) conception of human flourishing as the free development of autonomous moral agency.
The core of Political Liberalism, accordingly, is its insistence that, in order to retain its legitimacy, the liberal state must commit itself to the "ideal of public reason." This means, roughly, that citizens in their public capacity must engage one another only in terms of reasons whose status as reasons is shared between them. Political reasoning, then, is to proceed purely in terms of public reasons. For example: a Supreme Court justice deliberating on whether or not the denial to homosexuals of the ability to marry constitutes a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause may not advert to his religious convictions on the matter, but he may take into account the argument that a same-sex household provides sub-optimal conditions for a child's development. This is because reasons based upon the interpretation of sacred text are non-public (their force as reasons relies upon faith commitments that can be reasonably rejected), whereas reasons that rely upon the value of providing children with environments in which they may develop optimally are public reasons - their status as reasons draws upon no deep, controversial conception of human flourishing.
Rawls held that the duty of civility - the duty of citizens to offer one another reasons that are mutually understood as reasons - applies within what he called the "public political forum." This forum extends from the upper reaches of government - for example the supreme legislative and judicial bodies of the society - all the way down to the deliberations of a citizen deciding for whom to vote in state legislatures or how to vote in public referenda. Campaigning politicians should also, he believed, refrain from pandering to the non-public religious or moral convictions of their constituencies.
The ideal of public reason secures the dominance of the public political values - freedom, equality, and fairness - that serve as the foundation of the liberal state. But what about the justification of these values? Since any such justification would necessarily draw upon deep (religious or moral) metaphysical commitments which would be reasonably rejectable, Rawls held that the public political values may only be justified privately by individual citizens. The public liberal political conception and its attendant values may and will be affirmed publicly (in judicial opinions and presidential addresses, for example), but its deep justifications will not. The task of justification falls to what Rawls called the "reasonable comprehensive doctrines" and the citizens who subscribe to them. A reasonable Catholic will justify the liberal values one way, a reasonable Muslim another, and a reasonable secular citizen yet another way. One may illustrate Rawls's idea using a venn diagram: the public political values will be the shared space upon which overlap numerous reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Rawls's account of stability presented in A Theory of Justice is a detailed portrait of the compatibility of one - Kantian - comprehensive doctrine with justice as fairness. His hope is that similar accounts may be presented for many other comprehensive doctrines. This is Rawls's famous notion of an "overlapping consensus."
Such a consensus would necessarily exclude some doctrines, namely, those that are "unreasonable," and so one may wonder what Rawls has to say about such doctrines. An unreasonable comprehensive doctrine is unreasonable in the sense that it is incompatible with the duty of civility. This is simply another way of saying that an unreasonable doctrine is incompatible with the fundamental political values a liberal theory of justice is designed to safeguard - freedom, equality, and fairness. So, one answer to the question of what Rawls has to say about such doctrines is - nothing. For one thing, the liberal state cannot justify itself to individuals (such as religious fundamentalists) who hold to such doctrines, because any such justification would, as has been noted, proceed in terms of controversial moral or religious commitments that are excluded from the public political forum. But, more importantly, the goal of the Rawlsian project is primarily to determine whether or not the liberal conception of political legitimacy is internally coherent, and this project is carried out by the specification of what sorts of reasons persons committed to liberal values are permitted to use in their dialogue, deliberations, and arguments with one another about political matters. The Rawlsian project has this goal to the exclusion of concern with justifying liberal values to those not already committed, or at least open, to them. Rawls's concern is with whether or not the idea of political legitimacy fleshed out in terms of the duty of civility and mutual justification can serve as a viable form of public discourse in the face of the religious and moral pluralism of modern democratic society - not with justifying this conception of political legitimacy in the first place.
Rawls also modified the principles of justice as follows (with the first principle having priority over the second, and the first half of the second having priority over the latter half):
- Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of basic rights and liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all; and in this scheme the equal political liberties, and only those liberties, are to be guaranteed their fair value.
- Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.
These principles are subtly modified from the principles in Theory. The first principle now reads "equal claim" instead of "equal right," and he also replaces the phrase "system of basic liberties" with "a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties." More notably though, he switches the two parts of the second principle, so that the difference principle becomes the latter of the three.
The Law of Peoples
Although there were passing comments on international affairs in A Theory of Justice, it wasn't until late in his career that Rawls formulated a comprehensive theory of international politics with the publication of The Law of Peoples. He claimed there that "well-ordered" peoples could be either "liberal" or "decent." Rawls argued that the legitimacy of a liberal international order is contingent on tolerating decent peoples, which differ from liberal peoples, among other ways, in that they might have state religions and deny adherents of minority faiths the right to hold positions of power within the state, and might organize political participation via consultation hierarchies rather than elections. However, no well-ordered peoples may violate human rights or behave in an externally aggressive manner. Peoples that fail to meet the criteria of "liberal" or "decent" peoples are referred to as "outlaw states," "societies burdened by unfavourable conditions" or "benevolent absolutisms" depending on their particular failings. Such peoples do not have the right to mutual respect and toleration possessed by liberal and decent peoples.
Rawls's views on global distributive justice as they were expressed in this work surprised many of his fellow egalitarian liberals. Charles Beitz, for instance, had previously written a study that argued for the application of Rawls's Difference Principles globally. Rawls denied that his principles should be so applied, partly on the grounds that states, unlike citizens, were self-sufficient in the cooperative enterprises that constitute domestic societies. Although Rawls recognized that aid should be given to governments who are unable to protect human rights for economic reasons, he claimed that the purpose for this aid is not to achieve an eventual state of global equality, but rather only to ensure that these societies could maintain liberal or decent political institutions. He argued, among other things, that continuing to give aid indefinitely would see nations with industrious populations subsidize those with idle populations and would create a moral hazard problem where governments could spend irresponsibly in the knowledge that they will be bailed out by those nations who had spent responsibly.
Rawls's discussion of "non-ideal" theory, on the other hand, included a condemnation of bombing civilians and of the American bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II, as well as discussions of immigration and nuclear proliferation. Rawls also detailed here the ideal of the statesman, a political leader who looks to the next generation and promotes international harmony, even in the face of significant domestic pressure to act otherwise. Rawls also claimed, controversially, that violations of human rights can legitimize military intervention in the violating states, though he also expressed the hope that such societies could be induced to reform peacefully by the good example of liberal and decent peoples.
Awards and honors
- Bronze Star for radio work behind enemy lines in World War II.
- Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy (1999)
- National Humanities Medal (1999)
- Asteroid 16561 Rawls is named in his honor
John Rawls is also the subject of A Theory of Justice: The Musical!, an award-nominated musical billed as an 'all-singing, all-dancing romp through 2,500 years of political philosophy'. The musical premiered at Oxford in 2013 and was revived for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. The revised edition of 1999 incorporates changes that Rawls made for translated editions of A Theory of Justice. Some Rawls scholars use the abbreviation TJ to refer to this work.
- Political Liberalism. The John Dewey Essays in Philosophy, 4. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. The hardback edition published in 1993 is not identical. The paperback adds a valuable new introduction and an essay titled "Reply to Habermas." Some Rawls scholars use the abbreviation PL to refer to this work.
- The Law of Peoples: with "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited." Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999. This slim book includes two works; a further development of his essay entitled "The Law of Peoples" and another entitled "Public Reason Revisited", both published earlier in his career.
- Collected Papers. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999. This collection of shorter papers was edited by Samuel Freeman.
- Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2000. This collection of lectures was edited by Barbara Herman. It has an introduction on modern moral philosophy from 1600–1800 and then lectures on Hume, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel.
- Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2001. This shorter summary of the main arguments of Rawls's political philosophy was edited by Erin Kelly. Many versions of this were circulated in typescript and much of the material was delivered by Rawls in lectures when he taught courses covering his own work at Harvard University.
- Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007. Collection of lectures on Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Joseph Butler, J.J. Rousseau, David Hume, J.S. Mill, and Karl Marx, edited by Samuel Freeman.
- A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2010. With introduction and commentary by Thomas Nagel, Joshua Cohen, and Robert Merrihew Adams. Senior thesis, Princeton, 1942. This volume includes a brief late essay by Rawls entitled On My Religion.
- "A Study in the Grounds of Ethical Knowledge: Considered with Reference to Judgments on the Moral Worth of Character." Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 1950.
- "Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics." Philosophical Review (April 1951), 60 (2): 177-197.
- "Two Concepts of Rules." Philosophical Review (January 1955), 64 (1):3-32.
- "Justice as Fairness." Journal of Philosophy (October 24, 1957), 54 (22): 653-662.
- "Justice as Fairness." Philosophical Review (April 1958), 67 (2): 164-194.
- "The Sense of Justice." Philosophical Review (July 1963), 72 (3): 281-305.
- "Constitutional Liberty and the Concept of Justice" Nomos VI (1963) (in the notes to the second volume of his Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek refers to this article to show that Rawls agreed with the Lockean conception that what could be just or unjust was the way competition was carried on, not its results)
- "Distributive Justice: Some Addenda." Natural Law Forum (1968), 13: 51-71.
- "Reply to Lyons and Teitelman." Journal of Philosophy (October 5, 1972), 69 (18): 556-557.
- "Reply to Alexander and Musgrave." Quarterly Journal of Economics (November 1974), 88 (4): 633-655.
- "Some Reasons for the Maximin Criterion." American Economic Review (May 1974), 64 (2): 141-146.
- "Fairness to Goodness." Philosophical Review (October 1975), 84 (4): 536-554.
- "The Independence of Moral Theory." Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association (November 1975), 48: 5-22.
- "A Kantian Conception of Equality." Cambridge Review (February 1975), 96 (2225): 94-99.
- "The Basic Structure as Subject." American Philosophical Quarterly (April 1977), 14 (2): 159-165.
- "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory." Journal of Philosophy (September 1980), 77 (9): 515-572.
- "Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical." Philosophy & Public Affairs (Summer 1985), 14 (3): 223-251.
- "The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus." Oxford Journal for Legal Studies (Spring 1987), 7 (1): 1-25.
- "The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good." Philosophy & Public Affairs (Fall 1988), 17 (4): 251-276.
- "The Domain of the Political and Overlapping Consensus." New York University Law Review (May 1989), 64 (2): 233-255.
- "Roderick Firth: His Life and Work." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (March 1991), 51 (1): 109-118.
- "The Law of Peoples." Critical Inquiry (Fall 1993), 20 (1): 36-68.
- "Political Liberalism: Reply to Habermas." Journal of Philosophy (March 1995), 92 (3):132-180.
- "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," Chicago Law Review (1997), 64 (3): 765-807. [PRR]
- "Constitutional Liberty and the Concept of Justice." In Carl J. Friedrich and John W. Chapman, eds., Nomos, VI: Justice, pp. 98–125. Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. New York: Atherton Press, 1963.
- "Legal Obligation and the Duty of Fair Play." In Sidney Hook, ed., Law and Philosophy: A Symposium, pp. 3–18. New York: New York University Press, 1964. Proceedings of the 6th Annual New York University Institute of Philosophy.
- "Distributive Justice." In Peter Laslett and W. G. Runciman, eds., Philosophy, Politics, and Society. Third Series, pp. 58–82. London: Blackwell; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967.
- "The Justification of Civil Disobedience." In Hugo Adam Bedau, ed., Civil Disobedience: Theory and Practice, pp. 240–255. New York: Pegasus Books, 1969.
- "Justice as Reciprocity." In Samuel Gorovitz, ed., Utilitarianism: John Stuart Mill: With Critical Essays, pp. 242–268. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.
- "Author's Note." In Thomas Schwartz, ed., Freedom and Authority: An Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy, p. 260. Encino & Belmont, California: Dickenson, 1973.
- "Distributive Justice." In Edmund S. Phelps, ed., Economic Justice: Selected Readings, pp. 319–362. Penguin Modern Economics Readings. Harmondsworth & Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1973.
- "Personal Communication, January 31, 1976." In Thomas Nagel's "The Justification of Equality." Critica (April 1978), 10 (28): 9n4.
- "The Basic Liberties and Their Priority." In Sterling M. McMurrin, ed., The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, III (1982), pp. 1–87. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
- "Social Unity and Primary Goods." In Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams, eds., Utilitarianism and Beyond, pp. 159–185. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 1982.
- "Themes in Kant's Moral Philosophy." In Eckhart Forster, ed., Kant's Transcendental Deductions: The Three Critiques and the Opus postumum, pp. 81–113, 253-256. Stanford Series in Philosophy. Studies in Kant and German Idealism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1989.
- Review of Axel Hägerström's Inquiries into the Nature of Law and Morals (C.D. Broad, tr.). Mind (July 1955), 64 (255):421-422.
- Review of Stephen Toulmin's An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics (1950). Philosophical Review (October 1951), 60 (4): 572-580.
- Review of A. Vilhelm Lundstedt's Legal Thinking Revised. Cornell Law Quarterly (1959), 44: 169.
- Review of Raymond Klibansky, ed., Philosophy in Mid-Century: A Survey. Philosophical Review (January 1961), 70 (1): 131-132.
- Review of Richard B. Brandt, ed., Social Justice (1962). Philosophical Review (July 1965), 74(3): 406-409.
- Anarchy, State, and Utopia
- List of American philosophers
- List of liberal theorists
- Philosophy of economics
- A Theory of Justice: The Musical!
- "Rawls" entry in Random House Dictionary, Random House, 2013.
- "The National Medal Of The Arts And The National Humanities Medal". Clinton4.nara.gov. 1999-09-29. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- Gordon, David (2008-07-28) Going Off the Rawls, The American Conservative
- Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, "Rawls, John," Cambridge University Press, pp. 774–775.
- Kordana, Kevin & Tabachnick, David (2006). "On Belling the Cat: Rawls and Corrective Justice". Virginia Law Review 92: 1279.
- Freeman, 2010:xix
- "Daily Princetonian 12 April 1940 — Princeton Periodicals". Theprince.princeton.edu. 1940-04-12. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- Joshua Cohen and Thomas Nagel, "John Rawls: On My Religion", Times Literary Supplement, 18 March 2009
- Article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- "His first experience of combat was in New Guinea – a country which saw fighting for almost the whole duration of the Pacific campaign – where he won a Bronze Star." From article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- "One soldier in a dugout close to Rawls stood up and deliberately removed his helmet to take a bullet to the head, choosing to die rather than endure the constant barrage.... Later Rawls confided the whole experience was'particularly terrible'..." From an article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- From article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- "The total obliteration of physical infrastructure, and the even more horrific human toll, affected him deeply... and the fact that the destruction had been deliberately inflicted by his own side, was profoundly unsettling. He wrote that the scenes still haunted him 50 years later." From an article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- From article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- From an article by Iain King, titled Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- Date from Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Monthly, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- Rogers, 27.09.02
- "Fair Opportunity to Participate". The Canadian Political Science Review. June 2009.
- "They Work For You search: "John Rawls"". Theyworkforyou.com. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- Nussbaum, Martha; Frontiers of Justice; Harvard U Press; Cambridge, MA; 2006; Kindle location 1789
- "Deciding what this new (Japanese) society should look like was the task of the Supreme Command for the Allied Powers, and Rawls took this question – what should the rules of a society be – back to the US. But only in 1971 did he come up with a comprehensive answer. His theory starts by imagining away all that had gone before, just as the past had been erased in Hiroshima." Taken from Thinker at War: Rawls, published in Military History Magazine, 13 June 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
- Rawls 2001, pp. 114
- Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. pp. Chapter 7.
- Rawls 1971, pp. 397
- Rawls 1971, pp. 216
- Page 12 of 'John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice' by Thomas Pogge, 2007.
- "Oxford / News / Colleges / PPE finalists create revision musical". Cherwell.org. 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- Freeman, S. (2007) Rawls (Routledge, Abingdon)
- Freeman, Samuel (2009) "Original Position" (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, )
- Rawls, J. (1993/1996/2005) Political Liberalism (Columbia University Press, New York)
- Rawls, John (1971). A Theory of Justice (Original ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674017722.
- Rawls, John (2001). Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674005112.
- Rogers, B. (27.09.02) "Obituary: John Rawls" 
- Tampio, N. (2011) "A Defense of Political Constructivism" (Contemporary Political Theory, )
- Wenar, Leif (2008) "John Rawls" (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, )
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