"Framing Rawls's Democratic Vision"
In this essay I draw from Rawls's archived papers to set out several too often under-appreciated elements of Rawls's distinctively democratic vision.
Many readers of Rawls’s published works assume that what most distinguishes his work is his substantive conception of justice. To be sure, it is in certain respects distinctive. But even some of its most distinctive elements – e.g., the difference principle, the lexical ordering of principles of justice and the idea of the basic structure as the first subject of justice – had been anticipated. Some readers find most distinctive the larger (and allegedly shifting) argumentative context of Rawls’s work, whether the universalist and metaphysically ambitious Kantian contractualist framework alleged to frame his early work or the historicist and arguably relativist Hegelian hermeneutic framework alleged to frame his later work. For those exploring Rawls’s archived unpublished papers, lecture notes and letters, what emerges as most distinctive is a consistently maintained set of methodological and meta-philosophical commitments constituting and framing a democratic vision. In this short essay, I briefly sketch a few of these.
David A. Reidy is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee. He is co-editor (with Martin Rex) of "Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia?" (Blackwell, 2006), and co-editor (with Jon Mandle) of "A Companion to Rawls" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and "The Cambridge Rawls Lexicon" (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
See also David A. Reidy's paper "From Philosophical Theology to Democratic Theory: Early Postcards from an Intellectual Journey".