William A. Edmundson, "John Rawls: Reticent Socialist" (Cambridge UP, 2017)


John Rawls is easily the most celebrated and influential political philosopher of the 20th Century, and his impact remains remarkably strong today. The central concepts with which his theory of justice begins are now components of the philosophical vernacular: The Original Position, Veil of Ignorance, Primary Goods, and his Two Principles of Justice (especially the Difference Principle) all will be well known to the majority of professional philosophers. It is less commonly acknowledged that the apparatus just referenced is but the beginning of his theory, and not its ultimate concern. Throughout his work, Rawls is attempting to address a fundamental philosophical question: Can a society committed to the freedom and equality of its citizens yet arrange social institutions in a way that reliably cultivate within persons the attitudes and dispositions required for social justice? In John Rawls: Reticent Socialist (Cambridge UP, 2017), William A. Edmundson argues that Rawlsian justice calls for a socialist economic order. Could it be that America’s premiere political philosopher was a socialist?

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Robert Talisse

Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

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