John Rawls

On Rawls
April 06, 2009

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, Joshua Cohen and Tom Nagel, to explore possible links between his youthful theological speculations and his mature political philosophy.

Liberalism: Political And/or Metaphysical?
January 12, 2009

John Rawls famously claimed that liberalism is a philosophy of politics, not a theory of metaphysics. This very much placed him within the liberal tradition extending back to early modern Europe. In contrast to ancient and medieval political thought, the first liberals sought to conceive of politics without reference to metaphysics or the soul.

Liberalism: Political And/or Metaphysical?
January 12, 2009

John Rawls famously claimed that liberalism is a philosophy of politics, not a theory of metaphysics. This very much placed him within the liberal tradition extending back to early modern Europe. In contrast to ancient and medieval political thought, the first liberals sought to conceive of politics without reference to metaphysics or the soul.

Behind the Veil
February 27, 2008

Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy By John Rawls Edited by Samuel Freeman (Harvard University Press, 476 pp., $35)   Ever since ancient times, philosophers have sought to define the proper goals of political life. Yet in the age of modern democracy, when citizens themselves are held to decide through the various institutions of government the laws and the norms under which they will live together, political philosophy can look profoundly undemocratic.

A Good Discussion Prior To The Good
July 30, 2007

By Linda Hirshman I am somewhat constrained in answering Jacob Levy, because I am indeed working on a much longer piece about the role of foundational philosophical beliefs in contemporary American politics ("Maybe You Can't Be Too Rich, But You Sure Can Be Too Thin"). One of my purposes in sending up the Rawls flare was to sharpen my thinking for the larger project. But I don't want to give away the milk as mom used to say, either.

Kant at Ground Zero
February 09, 2004

Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida Edited by Giovanna Borradori (University of Chicago Press, 208 pp., $25) I. Was philosophy prepared for the events of September 11? To judge by all available evidence, the answer must be a resounding “no.” For some time now, contemporary philosophy has viewed “worldliness”—the perfectly natural idea that thought should take a healthy and constructive interest in worldly affairs—as a source of contamination. Analytic philosophy’s triumph in the decades following World War II meant that henceforth philosophy would

Earthquakes
April 07, 2003

Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy by Susan Neiman (Princeton University Press, 343 pp., $29.95)  It is not a good thing for philosophy to find it everywhere. Most of experience, and even most of thought, is decidedly not philosophical--which is precisely what makes philosophizing so valuable. Yet Susan Neiman's book errs in just this way. It treats a phenomenon that is, unfortunately, ubiquitous; but it then falls into the trap of believing that serious reflection on this phenomenon is similarly ubiquitous. As a result, Neiman's interesting book winds up making philo

Protocols
November 05, 2001

ONE OF THE MOST VIVID experiences of my time as a graduate student at Harvard was a seminar I took with the preeminent liberal political theorist John Rawls. The discussion centered on Rawls's later work, in which he divorced his liberalism from the claim of absolute truth. His argument was only cogent, he averred, if read and understood by people who already shared some basic premises--the need for consent, the reliance on reason, a tone of civility, a relatively open mind. With characteristic tactlessness, I asked him what his response would be if Hitler joined the debate and disagreed with

Protocols
November 04, 2001

One of the most vivid experiences of my time as a graduate student at Harvard was a seminar I took with the preeminent liberal political theorist John Rawls. The discussion centered on Rawls's later work, in which he divorced his liberalism from the claim of absolute truth. His argument was only cogent, he averred, if read and understood by people who already shared some basic premises--the need for consent, the reliance on reason, a tone of civility, a relatively open mind.

Taxation and Democratic Values
November 01, 1974

Kenneth Arrow makes the case for redistributing income.

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