An engaging account of the titan of political philosophy and the development of his most important work, A Theory of Justice, coming at a moment when its ideas are sorely needed.
It is hard to overestimate the influence of John Rawls on political philosophy and theory over the last half-century. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide, and he is one of the few philosophers whose work is known in the corridors of power as well as in the halls of academe. Rawls is most famous for the development of his view of “justice as fairness,” articulated most forcefully in his best-known work, A Theory of Justice. In it he develops a liberalism focused on improving the fate of the least advantaged, and attempts to demonstrate that, despite our differences, agreement on basic political institutions is both possible and achievable.
Critics have maintained that Rawls’s view is unrealistic and ultimately undemocratic. In this incisive new intellectual biography, Andrius Gališanka argues that in misunderstanding the origins and development of Rawls’s central argument, previous narratives fail to explain the novelty of his philosophical approach and so misunderstand the political vision he made prevalent. Gališanka draws on newly available archives of Rawls’s unpublished essays and personal papers to clarify the justifications Rawls offered for his assumption of basic moral agreement. Gališanka’s intellectual-historical approach reveals a philosopher struggling toward humbler claims than critics allege.
To engage with Rawls’s search for agreement is particularly valuable at this political juncture. By providing insight into the origins, aims, and arguments of A Theory of Justice, Gališanka’s John Rawls will allow us to consider the philosopher’s most important and influential work with fresh eyes.
Gališanka tracks the development of Rawls’s philosophical work as it evolved from his early inquiries into theology and the roots of evil to his secular justification for distributive justice…Leaves us with a compelling account of Rawls’s evolution and reminds us how philosophically rigorous the justification of Rawlsian high liberalism is.
This book is a pathbreaking achievement. Drawing extensively on John Rawls’s private papers and integrating them expertly with the published writings, Andrius Gališanka develops a new and striking account of Rawls’s intellectual development from his college years to the publication of A Theory of Justice. It is certain to change our understanding of the core motivations and ultimate aims of one of the greatest political philosophers of all time.
Drawing on important new archival materials, Andrius Gališanka has written a landmark study of one of the giants of twentieth-century political philosophy. Powerfully highlighted by the author’s deep research and judicious analysis, this will be a crucial volume for intellectual historians, political theorists, and philosophers who engage with Rawls, and of broad interest to those seeking to understand the origins and implications of his theory of justice.
John Rawls’s influence on moral and political philosophy is difficult to overstate. His books and articles have been intensely studied since the appearance of A Theory of Justice in 1971. But even those familiar with Rawls’s work may know little about how painstakingly he rehearsed his arguments prior to publication. Andrius Gališanka presents a careful study of everything Rawls wrote in the thirty years leading up to A Theory of Justice, with findings welcome even by Rawls experts. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the intellectual development of the twentieth century’s most important moral and political thinker.
This compelling intellectual biography of John Rawls—which makes extensive use of the philosopher’s archives—has a great many virtues. Andrius Gališanka documents how Rawls’s commitment to respect for persons originating from his brand of Protestantism, in addition to his persistent search for what follows from considered judgments, made possible a classic of our time.
Scholars of the work of liberal academic political theorist John Rawls will find this book highly useful.
- 272 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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