Portraits and Resources

John Rawls, 1921-

Portrait of J. Rawls

Modern Harvard philosopher.  In his most famous book, Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls proposed the idea of "original position", a mental exercise whereby a group of rational people must establish a principle of fairness (such as distribution of income) without knowing beforehand where on the resulting pecking order they will end up themselves. Rawls used this device to argue that the optimal arrangement will be to "maximize the welfare of society's worse-off member", which effectively justifies an egalitarian "no-substitution" social welfare function.

Major works of John Rawls

Resources on John Rawls

Prepared: March 26, 2003 - 5:02:29 PM
Edited and Updated, March 27, 2003

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