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Reconstructing Rawls and exposing the implicit social embeddedness of theories of justice

By Peter J Taylor


This essay prods moral philosophy towards more explicit attention to the political constructions of injustice. I do not appeal to practical or political relevance, but advance a particular kind of constructivist interpretation of moral argumentation (constructivism+) in which our interpretive horizons are extended to include the implicit views of social action, broadly construed—from the macro- to the micro-social, and from the past to the present and the possible—built into philosophical arguments. I challenge the idea that, in order to oppose injustice, we must first articulate and justify a coherent conception of justice and then theorize the social, constitutional, legal, or cultural arrangements through which such justice could be implemented. My argument moves through three levels: 1. contesting the separability of these steps by demonstrating that views of social action are embedded in, not merely derivable from, the well-known formulations of John Rawls in A Theory of Justice. (Thus reconstructed, Rawls is more coherent than most moral philosophers have considered him to be); 2. giving priority to moral justification while leaving the social context in the background, scarcely analyzed, burdens our thinking about in/justice; 3. in order to oppose injustice, it is not the case that we must first articulate and justify a coherent conception of justice

Topics: Ethics and Political Philosophy
Publisher: SelectedWorks
Year: 2020
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