John Rawls

Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home.

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What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of MarketsBy Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 244 pp., $27)  For over thirty years, Harvard undergraduates have packed Sanders Theater for Michael Sandel’s course on justice. PBS has broadcast the lectures and more than three and a half million people have clicked to watch them on YouTube.

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With national conversations about inequality and fairness in the air, I’ve been thinking about what economic justice might look like to regions. I find the late John Rawls to be the most insightful philosopher on the subject of justice, so I’ve been re-reading his great works. First of all, Rawls argues a just society must meet a minimum standard for civil liberties--basically, those specified by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Next, access to what he calls primary goods--things we value like influence, security, income, respect--should be openly available to all.

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The Lure of the Peak

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. On What Matters: Volume I By Derek Parfit (Oxford University Press, 540 pp., $35) On What Matters: Volume II By Derek Parfit (Oxford University Press, 825 pp., $35)   I. The idea that ethics is the province of religion lingers even in relatively secular societies.

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What Hope Remains?

An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age By Jürgen Habermas (Polity Press, 87 pp., $14.95) The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere By Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Columbia University Press, 137 pp., $19.50) On October 14, 2001, the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas stepped up to the lectern at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt to deliver a short address called “Faith and Knowledge.” The occasion was his acceptance speech of the Peace Prize, a yearly honor that the German Book

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Former Bush economic advisor Greg Mankiw urges President Obama to stop "spreading the wealth: Ever since your famous exchange with Joe the Plumber, it has been clear that you believe that the redistribution of income is a crucial function of government. A long philosophical tradition supports your view. It includes John Rawls’s treatise “A Theory of Justice,” which concludes that the main goal of public policy should be to transfer resources to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Many Republicans, however, reject this view of the state.

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Just a few years ago, many Republicans wanted to abolish the filibuster. They thought it was unfair, maybe even unconstitutional, that the Democratic minority in the Senate was blocking certain judicial nominations. Today, it is progressives who complain that filibusters are obstructionist and undemocratic.

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The Idea of Justice By Amartya Sen (Harvard University Press, 467 pp., $29.95) In his introduction to The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen asks the reader to imagine a scenario that will figure prominently throughout the book. Three children are arguing among themselves about which one of them should have a flute. The first child, Anne, is a trained musician who can make the best use of the flute. The second child, Bob, is the poorest of the three and owns no other toys or instruments. Clara, the third contender, happens to be the one who, with hard sustained labor, made the flute.

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Love and Capitalism

Caritas in Veritate: On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth By Pope Benedict XVI (Ignatius Press, 157 pp., $14.95) I. Are we facing an economic crisis? I do not mean the crisis of the credit markets that has wiped trillions off the global balance sheet and plunged the world into recession. I mean a spiritual crisis, of which the crash is but a symptom. According to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, we are in the midst of a “late capitalist . . .

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It had been known for some time that during his last two undergraduate years at Princeton, John Rawls had immersed himself in Christian theology and considered studying for the Episcopal priesthood. More recently, a professor in Princeton’s religion department stumbled on Rawls’s senior thesis, “A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith: An interpretation based on the concept of community.” This discovery moved two noted philosophers, John Cohen and Tom Nagel, to explore possible links between his youthful theological speculations and his mature political philosophy.

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