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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 3, 2001

The Philosophy of John Rawls

Sebastiano Maffettone
Pages 189-216

John Rawls
An Interpretation

This article raises some structural and theoretical problems in comprehensively reading Rawls. The first part divides Rawls’s oeuvre into two periods: the period marked by his most significant work A Theory of Justice (1971), and the period represented by Political Liberalism (1993) and The Law of Peoples (1999). The article examines ideas from all three books. The author first tries to show the continuity of Rawls’s liberalism, the best example being the development of the idea of the priority of right over the idea of the good, and the development of the ideal of equality. The second aim is to explain the idea of public reason, introduced in Rawls’s second period, and related objections, while examining three basic forms of justification in Political Liberalism. The author also takes into account Rawls’s criticism of the idea of political philosophy, which he sees as too keen to solve the needs of political society and less willing to explore the philosophical doctrine’s potential, and his idea of philosophical liberalism as opposed to political liberalism. The third part of the article stresses the principles and norms of international law and practice, and explains what Rawls calls “realistic utopia” and some related problems.