John Rawls

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John Rawls, perhaps the greatest American political philosopher of the 20th century, died last week. Few outside the academy knew of Rawls, in part because his modesty kept him out of the spotlight. Rawls did not seek fame. Even so, a world of admirers mourned his death. And in The New York Times, Le Monde, and The Independent, obituaries noted his contribution to the idea of a just society, the importance of his seminal text, “A Theory of Justice.”

Rawls belongs to a pantheon of formidable thinkers. Locke. Rousseau. Hobbes. Kant. Rawls’ legacy, his students and colleagues agree, makes him worthy of such company. John Rawls’ theory about, and commitment to, justice defined both his work, and his life. The principles of a principled man. Remembering John Rawls.


Tom Nagel, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University

Michael Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard University. Sandel is author of “Liberalism and the Limits of Justice” (1983), an influential response to John Rawls’s classic work, “A Theory of Justice.”