Monday, October 17, 2011

Review of "Reconstructing Rawls"

At "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews", Catherine Audard reviews "Reconstructing Rawls. The Kantian Foundations of Justice as Fairness" (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011) by Robert S. Taylor:

Review of "Reconstructing Rawls"

The aim of this new and very controversial book by Robert Taylor, Reconstructing Rawls, is to offer a coherent criticism of the 'second' Rawls and to "reconstruct justice as fairness on Kantian foundations" against Rawls's own anti-foundationalist stance. It seeks to demonstrate the impossibility both of such a dilution of the theory of justice and of a wide consensus on its principles. The two-pronged strategy of the book is to reveal, in Parts I and II, the strongly Kantian roots of the conception of justice as fairness, demonstrating that it can only make sense on the basis of its Kantian conception of persons, and, in Part III, to conclude that "there can be no overlapping consensus on a Kantian conception of persons or justice as fairness more broadly", contrary to Rawls's central claim in Political Liberalism; but this, it is contended, will leave it stronger, not weaker. [....]

As an original contribution to a theory of justice, inspired and motivated by Rawls but mostly by a different Kantian and universalistic agenda, this is an extremely valuable and stimulating book that should be assessed on its own merits, once its claims are reformulated in less confrontational ways. But as a reconstruction of Rawls's own project, the book fails in part because the views expressed by Rawls in his Political Liberalism are not given an entirely fair hearing. More worryingly, it misses the central idea of justice as fairness, that no independent and antecedent criteria of justice should be imposed on citizens' conceptions of the good in a democratic context, as this will always involve recourse to coercion.

Catherine Audard is Visiting Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics, and Chair of the Forum for European Philosophy. She is the author of John Rawls (Acumen Press, 2007).

See my previous post on Robert Taylor's book here.

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