Kantian Journal

2017 Vol. 36. No. 4

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Some aspects of John Rawls’s first principle of justice



The article considers the first of the two principles of justice proposed by the American philosopher John Rawls as universal principles that would be chosen by every reasonable and rational person in an ‘original position’. The work analyses the problematic aspects of the principle’s formulation (the vagueness of the list of key rights and freedoms and the value criterion for ranking them) and of the methods used by Rawls to overcome them in the works published after the acclaimed book A theory of Justice. The author addresses the problem of the correlation between freedom and security and argues that it was not studied sufficiently by Rawls. It is stressed that the absolute priority of the first principles of justice over the second one, which was declared by Rawls, is debatable. Disparate variations of the relative priority rule seem more convincing. The author gives a generally positive assessment of the improved formulation of the first principle of justice and emphasises that the principles of justice must take into account moral principles. Moreover, rights and freedoms should include those relating to personal and family lifestyle, childbirth and parenting and priority should be given to those freedoms that contribute to the development of the feeling of justice and the realisation of the moral ideal. It is concluded that Rawls demonstrated convincingly the relative value of democratic institutions.


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