Volume 1, Issue 3, 2001
The Philosophy of John Rawls
Rawls and Natural Aristocracy
The author discusses Rawls’s conception of socioeconomic justice, Democratic Equality. He contrasts Rawls’s account, which includes the difference principle constrained by the principle of fair equality of opportunity, with Natural Aristocracy, which constrains the difference principle only by the principle of careers open to talents. According to the author, many of Rawls’s own arguments support Natural
Aristocracy over Democratic Equality. In particular, Natural Aristocracy appears well placed to avoid a challenge that naturally arises in consideration of Democratic Equality, with respect to which formal distributive principle should deal with social and natural causes of inequality. The challenge is to cite a morally relevant distinction which supports the appropriateness of dealing with natural causes of inequality differently to those generated by social causes. In support of his proposal, the author also appeals to certain arguments in Rawls’s Political Liberalism.