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Reconstructing Rawls: a utilitarian critique of Rawls's theory of justice

Fremantle, SP; (2016) Reconstructing Rawls: a utilitarian critique of Rawls's theory of justice. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

My thesis argues that Rawls’s attempt to discredit utilitarianism as a viable theory of justice was ultimately unsuccessful. I shall follow the example of Robert Paul Wolff’s 1977 book Understanding Rawls in treating A Theory of Justice ‘not as a single piece of philosophical argument to be tested and accepted or rejected whole, but as a complex, many-layered record of at least twenty years of philosophical growth and development’. Paying close attention to the wording of different variants of Rawls’s arguments as they developed over the years, I shall reconstruct my own argument using the most coherent parts of Rawls’s arguments, along with contributions from various commentators. This will uphold the classical principle of utility, as a principle of distributive justice that is entirely suited to Rawls’s conception of society as a cooperative venture for mutual advantage, with that conception’s commitment to conceiving obligations of justice as essentially obligations of reciprocity. In doing so, I hope to show that the case against utilitarianism is unproven as is the case that justice requires the recognition of inviolable rights. My argument should also explain Rawls’s continued modification of his arguments as largely due to his failure to successfully refute utilitarianism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Reconstructing Rawls: a utilitarian critique of Rawls's theory of justice
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: utilitarianism, reciprocity, theory of justice, distributive justice, benevolence
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1521152
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