Monday, October 23, 2017

The 25th anniversary of Rawls's "Political Liberalism"

Symposium in the journal "Ethics" on the 25th anniversary of John Rawls’s "Political Liberalism" (Columbia University Press, 1993):

1. Introduction - Andrew I. Cohen

This symposium offers five essays to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first publication of John Rawls's Political Liberalism. The authors consider how an ideal theory such as Rawls's can address historical injustices, how full autonomy is possible for citizens of the well-ordered society, how and whether Kantian elements still figure in Political Liberalism, and how Rawls's commitment to democracy qualifies his liberalism.

2. The Historical Injustice Problem for Political Liberalism - Erin I. Kelly

Abstract: Liberal political philosophers have underestimated the philosophical relevance of historical injustice. For some groups, injustices from the past — particularly surrounding race, ethnicity, or religion — are a source of entrenched social inequality decades or even hundreds of years later. Rawls does not advocate the importance of redressing historical injustice, yet political liberalism needs a principle of historical redress. Rawls’s principle of fair equality of opportunity, which is designed to prevent the leveraging of class privilege, could be paired with a supporting principle of historical redress that would contend with partiality and bias in open access to positions.

3. Autonomy and Disagreement about Justice in Political Liberalism - Paul Weithman

Abstract: Rawls says in Political Liberalism that “the focus of an overlapping consensus is [more likely to be] a class of liberal conceptions” than a single one. In conceding that members of the well-ordered society are unlikely to live up to justice as fairness, Rawls would seem to have conceded that they are also unlikely to live autonomously. This is exactly the conclusion some commentators have drawn. I contend that the likelihood of “reasonable pluralism about justice” does not have the implication for Rawls’s project that it is said to have: political autonomy remains available even when such pluralism obtains.

4. Political Liberalism: A Kantian View - Rainer Forst

Abstract: This article suggests a Kantian reading of Rawls’s Political Liberalism. As much as Rawls distanced himself from a presentation of his theory in terms of a comprehensive Kantian moral doctrine, we ought to read it as a noncomprehensive Kantian moral-political theory. According to the latter approach, the liberal conception of justice is compatible with a plurality of comprehensive doctrines as long as they share the independently defined and grounded essentials of that conception of justice — that is, as long as they are “reasonable,” to use the term that does most of the Kantian work.

5. Consensus on What? Convergence for What? Four Models of Political Liberalism [pdf] - Gerald Gaus & Chad Van Schoelandt

Abstract: As we read his work, John Rawls was developing an innovative approach to political philosophy, and Political Liberalism struggles with different ways to model these new insights. This article presents four models of political liberalism, particularly focusing on understanding the nature of overlapping consensus and its relation to public reason. Beyond clarifying Rawls’s insights, we aim to spur readers to reassemble the rich elements of Political Liberalism to produce tractable and enlightening models of political life among free and equal citizens under conditions of deep diversity to advance the public reason project.

6. Rawls, Liberalism, and Democracy [pre-view] - John Skorupski

Abstract: This article offers a critique of John Rawls’s great work, Political Liberalism, from a non-Rawlsian liberal standpoint. It argues that Rawlsian political liberalism is influenced as much by a comprehensive view I call “radical-democracy” as by comprehensive liberal views. This can be seen in Rawls’s account of some of political liberalism’s fundamental ideas — notably the idea of society as a fair system of cooperation, the “liberal” principle of legitimacy, and the idea of public reason. I further argue that Rawls’s impressive attempt to unify liberal and democratic traditions philosophically obscures the prudent liberal attitude to democracy, which remains sound.

See also my blog posts on 

* "Rawls, Political Liberalism and Reasonable Faith" by Paul Weithman (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

* "Rawls's Political Liberalism", ed. by Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum (Columbia University Press, 2015)

* "John Rawls: Politischer Liberalismus", ed. by Otfried Höffe (De Gruyter, 2015)

* "Why Political Liberalism? On John Rawls's Political Turn" by Paul Weithman (Oxford University Press, 2011)

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