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The Legacies of John Rawls

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

To understand the continuing importance of John Rawls’s work, we need to understand the background, the object and the method of his fifty-year quest as a political thinker. The background to Rawls’s investigation was a (carefully circumscribed) acknowledgement of a certain kind of evaluative pluralism. The object of Rawls’s work was to develop a method of commensuration that would enable us, the free and equal citizens of a democratic society, to identify a common basis for our dealings, in search of mutual benefit, with one another. Finally, the method used by Rawls in his work was broadly, though tacitly rather than explicitly, pragmatist in character, especially in the sense that Rawls was aiming, now explicitly, to develop principles of political association that generate their own support in the attitudes and actions of those whose behavior they are intended to guide.

Affiliations: 1: Contemporary Studies Program, University of Queensland, Ipswich, QLD 4305, Australia, Email:


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