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John Rawls

Debating the Major Questions

Edited by Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Publication Date - July 2020

ISBN: 9780190859206

408 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


John Rawls is widely considered one of the most important political philosophers of the 20th century, and his highly original and influential works play a central role in contemporary philosophical debates.

This collection of original essays explores the outpouring of scholarship and debate inspired by Rawls's political philosophy. Given the vastness of this scholarship, this volume aims to provide inroads to its central themes and preoccupations. The volume is divided into ten parts, exploring ten distinct questions, for example: Can Rawls's conception of public reason offer determinate answers to major questions of justice? Is ideal theory useful or relevant to resolving issues of justice in the nonideal world? Are libertarians correct to criticize Rawls's work for failing to prioritize economic liberty? When institutions aim at equality, what is it that they should seek to equalize--primary goods, capabilities, or welfare? For each question, there is an introductory essay, providing an overview of the relevant arguments from Rawls's work and the historical contours of the debate that ensued. Each introductory essay is followed by two essays written by scholars who take opposing positions, which move the discussion forward in a fruitful way.

This volume provides readers with clear and in-depth explication of Rawls's arguments, the most important critical dialogue generated in response to those arguments, and the dialogue's significance to contemporary politics.


  • Provides clear and thoughtful overviews of the philosophical dialogue that has emerged from John Rawls's deeply influential philosophy
  • Provides inroads and critical summaries of Rawls scholarship
  • Unlike typical anthologies, its format includes two opposing positions in each chapter, inspiring critical thinking in students and moving dialogue forward in fruitful ways
  • Suggested reading sections guide readers through Rawls's most influential work as well as direct them to further and critically-acclaimed readings by other philosophers

About the Author(s)

Jon Mandle is Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Albany. He has published widely on political philosophy and John Rawls in particular, including co-editing The Cambridge Rawls Lexicon (with David Reidy, Cambridge 2015), and the Blackwell Companion to Rawls (with David Reidy, Blackwell 2014), as well as authoring three monographs: Rawls a Theory of Justice: An Introduction (Cambridge 2009), Global Justice (Polity 2006) and What's Left of Liberalism?: An Interpretation and Defense of Justice as Fairness (Lexington Books 2000).

Sarah Roberts-Cady is a Professor of Philosophy at Fort Lewis College. Her research on ethics and political philosophy has been featured in Journal of Social Philosophy, International Journal of Applied Philosophy, Philosophy Today, and Politics and the Life Sciences.

Table of Contents

    An Introduction to Rawls on Justice
    Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

    Part I: Public Reason
    Introduction to Public Reason

    Chapter 1: Public Political Reason: Still Not Wide Enough
    David Reidy

    Chapter 2: Just Wide Enough: Reidy on Public Reason
    James Boettcher

    Part II: Ideal and Nonideal Theory
    Introduction to Ideal and Nonideal Theory

    Chapter 3: The "Focusing Illusion" of Rawlsian Ideal Theory
    Colin Farrelly

    Chapter 4: The Value of Ideal Theory
    Matthew Adams

    Part III: The Libertarian Critique
    Introduction to the Libertarian Critique

    Chapter 5: Rawls's Underestimation of the Importance of Economic Agency and Economic Rights
    Jeppe Von Platz

    Chapter 6: Rawls on Economic Liberty and the Choice of "Systems of Social Co-Operation"
    Alan Thomas

    Part IV: Luck Egalitarianism
    Introduction to Luck Egalitarianism

    Chapter 7: Rawls and Luck Egalitarianism
    Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen

    Chapter 8: The Point of Justice: On the Paradigmatic Incompatibility between Rawlsian "Justice as Fairness" and Luck Egalitarianism
    Rainer Forst

    Part V: The Capability Critique
    Introduction to the Capability Critique

    Chapter 9: Sen's Capability Critique
    Chris Lowry

    Chapter 10: Spectres of Democracy: Detouring the Limitations of Rawls and the Capabilities Approach
    Tony Fitzpatrick

    Part VI: The Dependency Critique
    Introduction to the Dependency Critique

    Chapter 11: The Dependency Critique of Rawlsian Equality
    Eva Kittay

    Chapter 12: A Feminist Liberal Response to the Dependency Critique
    Amy Baehr

    Part VII: Rawls and feminism
    Introduction to Rawls and Feminism

    Chapter 13: The Indeterminacy of Rawls's Principles for Gender Justice
    M. Victoria Costa

    Chapter 14: A Feminist Defense of Political Liberalism
    Christie Hartley and Lori Watson

    Part VIII: Rawls and Nonhuman Animals
    Introduction to Rawls and Nonhuman Animals

    Chapter 15: Extending Rawlsian Justice to Nonhuman Animals
    Sarah Roberts-Cady

    Chapter 16: Rawls and Animals: A Defense
    Patrick Taylor Smith

    Part IX: International Economic Justice
    Introduction to International Economic Justice

    Chapter 17: Rawls on Global Economic Justice: A Critical Examination
    Rekha Nath

    Chapter 18: Rawls's Reasoning about International Economic Justice: A Defense
    Gillian Brock

    Part X: International Justice and Toleration
    Introduction to International Justice and Toleration

    Chapter 19: Right-Wing Populism and Non-Coercive Injustice: On the Limits of the Law of Peoples
    Michael Blake

    Chapter 20: Tolerating Decent Societies: A Defense of the Law of Peoples
    Jon Mandle

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