An examination of Rawls' neutral justification of liberalism

Chafe, Roger (2000) An examination of Rawls' neutral justification of liberalism. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

John Rawls presents a carefully crafted justification of liberalism designed to be acceptable to certain pluralistic societies. The acceptability of his justification depends, in large part, on its being 'neutral' with regard to the reasonable comprehensive doctrines within these societies. The main idea is that within societies whose members do not have a shared conception of the good the justification of political institutions cannot be based on assumptions which are contentious to any reasonable group. In this paper, I examine Rawls' attempt to provide a neutral justification by breaking his justification into three stages: I) the attempt to justify adopting a conception of justice generally; 2) the attempt to justify adopting a normative liberal conception of justice; and 3) the attempt to justify adopting a specific normative liberal conception of justice, i.e., his conception of justice as fairness. This novel way of looking at Rawls' work allows us to best evaluate the strengths and shortcomings of his justification and the project of liberal neutrality more generally. Presenting Rawls in this way also illustrates how writers like Sandel, Habermas, and Rorty misinterpret key aspects of Rawls' project. I conclude by saying that while Rawls is fairly successful in providing a neutral justification for certain liberal societies, maintaining this neutrality hampers 'justice as fairness' from contributing more clearly to current political debates within liberal societies.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/729
Item ID: 729
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 119-124
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2000
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Rawls, John, 1921-2002; Liberalism; Justice

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