Monday, August 17, 2009

Paul Weithman reviews Rawls on religion

Professor Paul Weithman has written an extensive review of John Rawls's senior thesis on religion:

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009.08.18

"I noted earlier that publication of Rawls's senior thesis and "On My Religion" may gain Rawls a more sympathetic reading among religious ethicists because these writings dispel the impression that Rawls was hostile to or uninformed about religion. Rawls's liberalism is also criticized, in religious quarters and elsewhere, for being objectionably individualist. If what I have said here about his driving concerns is right, then the thesis puts a great deal of pressure on those who press this objection. Rawls always held that we have a social nature which can be expressed only in a community in which no one is moved by what "A Brief Inquiry" refers to as a "perverse desire for height". The common assertions that Rawls denies our natural sociality, and that Rawlsian citizens would lack a robust concern for common goods, cannot withstand a careful reading of Rawls's mature writings. Publication of Rawls's senior thesis shows that these charges also distort views he held from his earliest foray into social philosophy."

Paul Weithman is professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. In 2002 he published Religion and the Obligations of Citizenship (Cambridge University Press).

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