Reconstructing Rawls and exposing the implicit social embeddedness of theories of justice

Taylor, Peter J., “Reconstructing Rawls and exposing the implicit social embeddedness of theories of justice” (1995). Working Papers in Critical, Creative and Reflective Practice. 4.
https://scholarworks.umb.edu/cct_ccrp/4
This essay (from 1995) prods moral philosophy towards more explicit attention to the political constructions of injustice. I do not appeal to practical or political relevance, but advance a particular kind of constructivist interpretation of moral argumentation (constructivism+) in which our interpretive horizons are extended to include the implicit views of social action, broadly construed—from the macro- to the micro-social, and from the past to the present and the possible—built into philosophical arguments.

I challenge the idea that, in order to oppose injustice, we must first articulate and justify a coherent conception of justice and then theorize the social, constitutional, legal, or cultural arrangements through which such justice could be implemented. My argument moves through three levels: 1. contesting the separability of these steps by demonstrating that views of social action are embedded in, not merely derivable from, the well-known formulations of John Rawls in A Theory of Justice. (Thus reconstructed, Rawls is more coherent than most moral philosophers have considered him to be); 2. giving priority to moral justification while leaving the social context in the background, scarcely analyzed, burdens our thinking about in/justice; 3. in order to oppose injustice, it is not the case that we must first articulate and justify a coherent conception of justice.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

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