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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 61, Issue 3, September 2021

Timothy Furlan
Pages 317-333

Principles and Judgments in Rawls’s Theory of Justice

In this paper I argue that the right to equal respect and consideration that Rawls incorporates into the original position by means of the veil of ignorance cannot provide support for his two principles of justice independently of an appeal to considered judgments. The trouble is that this right is intolerably vague. The crucial terms are neither transparent in meaning nor clearly definable, and so they can only be understood against a background of considered judgments. To the extent that the principle is kept vague, it places no constraints on the conditions of the original position. To the extent that its meaning is specified, its interpretation presupposes the very principles and considered judgments that are supposed to be independently justified by the device of the original position. Finally, I respond to Norm Daniels’s claim that “wide reflective equilibrium” provides a way to test moral principles independently of their respective considered judgments.

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