The Law of Peoples: With, The Idea of Public Reason Revisited

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Harvard University Press, 2001 - Law - 199 pages
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This book consists of two parts: the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," first published in 1997, and "The Law of Peoples," a major reworking of a much shorter article by the same name published in 1993. Taken together, they are the culmination of more than fifty years of reflection on liberalism and on some of the most pressing problems of our times by John Rawls.

"The Idea of Public Reason Revisited" explains why the constraints of public reason, a concept first discussed in Political Liberalism (1993), are ones that holders of both religious and non-religious comprehensive views can reasonably endorse. It is Rawls's most detailed account of how a modern constitutional democracy, based on a liberal political conception, could and would be viewed as legitimate by reasonable citizens who on religious, philosophical, or moral grounds do not themselves accept a liberal comprehensive doctrine--such as that of Kant, or Mill, or Rawls's own "Justice as Fairness," presented in A Theory of Justice (1971).

The Law of Peoples extends the idea of a social contract to the Society of Peoples and lays out the general principles that can and should be accepted by both liberal and non-liberal societies as the standard for regulating their behavior toward one another. In particular, it draws a crucial distinction between basic human rights and the rights of each citizen of a liberal constitutional democracy. It explores the terms under which such a society may appropriately wage war against an "outlaw society," and discusses the moral grounds for rendering assistance to non-liberal societies burdened by unfavorable political and economic conditions.

 

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The law of peoples; with, The idea of public reason revisited

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About one-quarter of this book is a reprint of Rawls's 1997 essay, "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," in which he sets out the principles of a well-ordered constitutional democratic society. The ... Read full review

Contents

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About the author (2001)

John Rawls, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, had published a number of articles on the concept of justice as fairness before the appearance of his magnum opus, A Theory of Justice (1971). While the articles had won for Rawls considerable prestige, the reception of his book thrust him into the front ranks of contemporary moral philosophy. Presenting a Kantian alternative to conventional utilitarianism and intuitionism, Rawls offers a theory of justice that is contractual and that rests on principles that he alleges would be accepted by free, rational persons in a state of nature, that is, of equality. The chorus of praise was loud and clear. Stuart Hampshire acclaimed the book as "the most substantial and interesting contribution to moral philosophy since the war."H. A. Bedau declared: "As a work of close and original scholarship in the service of the dominant moral and political ideology of our civilization, Rawls's treatise is simply without a rival." Rawls historically achieved two important things: (1) He articulated a coherent moral philosophy for the welfare state, and (2) he demonstrated that analytic philosophy was most capable of doing constructive work in moral philosophy. A Theory of Justice has become the most influential work in political, legal, and social philosophy by an American author in the twentieth century.

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