Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

Abstract

The argument of this dissertation is that John Rawls, although primarily concerned with social and political justice, and not with virtue ethics, gives a major place and role to the moral virtues in his theory of political liberalism, as in all of his system of justice as fairness. Some philosophers, mostly of the Aristotelian-Aquinian traditions, have generally lamented what they regard as the abandonment of the moral virtues by modern and contemporary, liberal, moral philosophers. The liberals, the critics claim, turn instead to the principles of justice and right, and to the language of moral obligations and of human rights. This perception of contemporary, liberal, moral philosophy as a rejection or marginalization of the virtues of character affects their readings of Rawls's works.

Contrary to these critics, I argue that Rawls sees the moral virtues as crucially important in a liberal, democratic, political society. He clearly includes the virtues among the conceptions or the forms of the good in his major works, especially A Theory of Justice and Political liberalism. But his approach, the structure of his practical reasoning, I argue, is in some ways different from those of his Aristotelian opponents because he stands in the Kantian tradition of ethical thought.

Rawls argues that moral virtues, especially the political virtues, are derived independently of comprehensive doctrines. They are, rather, essential requirements of human practical reason and reasonableness. And while presupposing the self-oriented virtues, Rawls pays more attention to the social-political virtues. Defining the virtues, generally, as good and stable qualities of character necessary for adherence to the principles of justice and right in a well-ordered society of justice as fairness, he sums them all up in what he calls "the sense of justice." In Rawls's works, both "the principles" and "the sense" of justice are two sides of the same coin: they are two interwoven dimensions of our moral nature, and are together required for mora-political consensus, social cooperation, unity, and stability.

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