John Rawls

“John Rawls: (1921-2002) U.S. philosopher. Born in Baltimore, he taught at Cornell (1962-79) and later Harvard (from 1979). He has written primarily on ethics and political philosophy. In his Theory of Justice (1971), he offered an alternative to utilitarianism that led to very different conclusions about justice. He asserted that if people had to choose principles of justice from behind a ‘veil of ignorance’ that restricted what they could know about their own position in society, they would not seek to maximize overall utility but would instead both protect their liberty and safeguard themselves against the worst possible outcome, They would thus sanction only the kinds of inequalities (e.g. in wealth) that are to the benefit of the worst off (e.g. because the inequalities are necessary for incentives that benefit all).”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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