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    Rawls’s A Theory of Justice

                                                        Contemporary Political Theory

                                                               Rawls Study Guide #1


    These questions are designed to guide your reading and prepare you for class discussions and examinations.  You should come to class able to answer them.  If you can do so, you will be well on your way to an understanding of the material.  Your quiz will come from this material.


    You have a good grasp of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice if you can answer the following:

    –describe what Rawls means by the original position (i.e., what’s it like?)

    –what role does the original position play in his theory?

    –what is the general content of the principles of justice…?

    –what is the distinction between the “equality principle” and the “difference principle”?

    –how are the principles of justice related to one another and why?

    –how are the principles related to the “basic structure” of the well-ordered society?

    –what does Rawls mean by “reflective equilibrium”?

    –what “basic” political liberties does Rawls identify/suggest?

    –what are the “primary social goods”?

    –describe what Rawls means by the “veil of ignorance” (how does it work?)

    –what role does the veil of ignorance play in his theory?

    –what is the relationship of the principles of justice to political decisions made?

    –what does he understands by “justice as fairness”?


    You have a good grasp of Rawls’s “The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus” if you can answer the following:

    –identify and describe the three features of a” political conception of justice”

    –what is an overlapping consensus?  How does it work?

    –what does he mean by “free public reason” and what is its role?

    –what does Rawls mean by modus vivendi?

    –what would be the problem with an overlapping consensus that was a mere modus vivendi?

    –why is the overlapping consensus not a modus vivendi?

    –what does he mean by “comprehensive doctrines”?

    –is an overlapping consensus “indifferent or skeptical” about “comprehensive doctrines? Why?

    –what does a “partially comprehensive view” of Rawls’ “political conception” look like?

    –identify and describe the three essential requirements of a stable constitutional regime regulated by a liberal conception of justice

    –how does Rawls envision a liberal conception of justice changing over time into a “stable overlapping consensus”?

    –what, on is his view, is “political liberalism”?


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