Public Reason: Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2009
Rawls: Construction and Justification
Stefan Bird-Pollan

I examine Rawls’ indebtedness to Kant in A Theory of Justice, Kantian Constructivism and in “Themes from Kant’s Philosophy”. I argue that the way Rawls develop the justification of A Theory of Justice relies heavily on Kant’s claims that rationality requires reciprocity and that rationality is to be understood as moral rather than as instrumental. Rawls thus reveals something new in Kant’s theory namely that for Kant the hypothetical imperative is actually subordinate to the categorical imperative. However, Rawls eschews Kant’s attempt at proving that we are rational and thus committed to treating each other with respect, hence Rawls argument fails to show that we do, in fact, share the intuitions about justice as fairness that underlie Rawls’ theory.

Key words: Rawls, Kant, morality, constructivism, justification.


Bird-Pollan, Stefan. 2009. Rawls: Construction and Justification. Public Reason 1 (2): 13-31.