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The Ambiguities of Rawls's Influence Author(s): Peter Berkowitz Reviewed work(s): Source: Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Mar.

, 2006), pp. 121-133 Published by: American Political Science Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/04/2012 16:24
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Ambiguities of



Peter Berkowitz

Rawlsis the toweringfigureof academicliberalJohn ism. A gentle, dignified, self-effacingman, he taught philosophy at Harvard for more than thirty years and from his commanding position exerteda decisive influence on his profession. Through his scholarship and teaching he played a major role in establishingthe nowof liberalismin the academyand, dominant understanding more generally,of the method and purpose of the philosophical study of politics. Before Rawls, professors of philosophy, when they addressedquestions about politics at all, tended to restrict their analysis to the use of words and their logical relaA Theory tions. Rawls's 1971 masterwork, ofJustice, changed that. Bound to stand as a lasting contribution to the liberal tradition, Rawls'sbook restoredthe question of justice to its place of preeminencein the philosophicalstudy of politics and therebyinaugurateda new era not only for professorsof philosophy interested in political ideas but in political scialso for political theorists headquartered ence departments. Rawls'sundertakingwas exceptionallyambitious. His aim in A Theoryof Justicewas to extend and refine the social contract tradition from Locke to Kant-especially Kant-and, in a sense, to bring it to completion. Starting from intuitions about moralityand human naturethat he held to be austere, widely-shared,and deeply rooted in contemporaryliberal democracies,he sought to provide, in 600 highly theoreticaland densely-argued pages, a rigorous deduction of the fundamentalprinciplesand institutional arrangementsof a well-orderedstate. The state with justice,accordingto Rawls, constructedin accordance protected certainbasic individualrights and, in a manner consistentwith those rights,redistributed goods to achieve a substantially more egalitariansociety. What makes A

Theory of usticedistinctive,however,is not the egalitarian version of the modern welfarestate that it seeks to vindicate, but the complex conceptual machinery that Rawls assemblesto make the case. Although Rawls himself did not draw the connection, his well-ordered state turned out to converge with the politicalprogramchampionedby the left wing of the Democratic Party.This convergencelent credenceto the profoundly mistakennotion-reflexively embracedby many academic liberals,particularlythose who took to calling themselves deliberative democrats-that policy debates and progressives about how to probetween conservatives tect freedomand achieveequalitycan be decidedby abstract The reflexhas had unforreasonin favorof progressives.1 tunate consequencesinside the academy,not least for the liberaltraditionthat Rawlsstroveto vindicate.Those who did not occupy themselveswith extending or refining or criticizingRawls-those who attemptednearlyany inquiry in political philosophy not defined by the Rawlsian project-were often regardedby Rawlsiansas, at a minimum, suspect and sometimes as not practicingpolitical theory at all. Moreover,as Rawls'sfollowers rose to positions of prominence and power in the universityworld, more than a few fostered an environment in which disagreementwith progressiveopinion about the justice of abortion,affirmative action,or welfarereform,or any number of other difficult and divisive questions of public policy, was viewed as giving expression to antidemocratic sentimentsand violating the boundariesof reasonable and morally respectablediscourse. To be sure, intoleranceof dissent and the suppression of inquiry does not represent an iron law of necessity imposed by Rawlsian principles. Rather, it is a temptation that ariseswithin and is furnishedmeans by Rawls's approach.For example, followers found in Rawls'srationalist method a justification for restrictive and selfPeterBerkowitzteaches at George Mason University School aggrandizing judgments about the proper aim and Law and is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at boundaries of philosophical and political inquiry. They of Hoover Institution Stanford's (berkowitz@hoover.stanford. assertedcorrectlythat to engage in reasonedargumentit Varieties was necessaryfor interlocutorsto proceed from common edu). He is the editorof the companionvolumes of Conservatismin America (HooverInstitutionPress ground, but then confused the Rawlsian researchparain America (Hoover 2004) and Varietiesof Progressivism digm and their own political agendas with the civility, InstitutionPress toleration, and respectfor competing points of view that 2004). March2006 1Vol. 4/No. 1 121

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ought to provide the common ground in universities.2 On the basis of this confusion, academic liberals could persuadethemselvesthat they were justified in excluding from their conversations, programs, and centers those who did not embraceRawls as the point of departurefor moral and political thinking. The exclusion, however, has had costs, includingfor the excluders. Deprivingthemselves and their programs of the benefit of alternative approachesand sealing themselves and their centers off from dissenting points of view, many academic liberals lapsed into equating liberalismwith Rawlsianliberalism, and Rawlsian liberalismwith political philosophy itself. For them, the philosophically valid and the politically correct became increasinglydifficult to distinguish. Rawls was different. Throughout his career he confrontedquestionsabout the limits of reasonand the dependence of justice on opinions about which reasonablemen and women could differ.Indeed, what is hinted at in certain recurringequivocationsand obscuritiesin his books is confirmedby the explicitanalysisof the last of his books, on the Historyof Moral Philosophy. Lectures Justice in the liberaltradition, in Rawls'sconsideredopinion, is bound up with controversialmetaphysicalnotions and a biblically grounded religiousfaith. To understandRawls'slegto observehow he wrested with questions acy,it is necessary about liberalism's grounds,as well as with the tendency to shut down even forms and topics of inquiry that derived sustenancefrom his thought. The paradoxcan be glimpsed in Rawls'sexposition of the "originalposition" in A Theoryof Justice.An up-todate version of the "stateof nature"teaching, it is a hypotheticaland nonhistoricalcondition that Rawlsconstructs to illustratethe basic principles that perfectly reasonable persons would accept if asked to design a society from scratch.3Choice is not wide open in the originalposition an inviobecauseRawlsassumesthat "each personpossesses lability founded on justice that even the welfareof society This assumption,an up-toas a whole cannot override."4 dateway of speakingof naturaland inalienablerightsserves as the foundation stone on which the moral and political primacyhe ascribesto individual choice rests. Indeed, to in the origor "consent"7 or "assent"6 speak of "choice"5 inal position as does Rawls repeatedly,to say nothing of describingthe principlesof justice as emergingin the original position as "the result of a fair agreement or bargain,"8 or of characterizingpersons in it as achieving is to adorn the originalposition with a mis"unanimity,"9 In fact, confacade.10 and participatory democratic leading straints built into the original position are designed to ensure the reachingof a single conclusion about the principles of justice by all who enter it, or ratherthe moraland political conclusions are built into the constraints.1 Rawls calls the constraintsimposed on persons in the original position the "veil of ignorance."12By hiding knowledge of the attributes that distinguish one person 122 Perspectives on Politics from another, the veil of ignorance ensures that the reasoning about fair principlesfor social cooperation in the original position is not influenced by what Rawls regards as inessentialor morallyirrelevantfactors.13 And because what is universal considers Rawls, following Kant, only in the human condition to be morally relevant, persons behind the veil of ignoranceare deprivedof information about what is given to them in particularby society and what is give to them in particularby nature and fortune. They are forbidden knowledge of family and friends, social class and political opinions, nation and religious beliefs, height and weight and sex, and whether they are healthy,wealthy, or wise. They do know that they share desireswhose satisfactionrequiresthe cooperationof others; rationality,which enables choice among the variety of humanends;and the elementsof "moral personality"-a sense of justice and a capacity to formulate ideas about what is good.14 Reasoningin the originalposition gives rise to "justice as fairness," which receivesexpressionin two principles.15 The firsthas priorityand may not be violated, even for the sakeof the second. It providesthat "eachperson is to have an equal right to the most extensivebasic liberty compatThe second stipible with a similar liberty for others."16 ulates that "social and economic inequalities are to be arrangedso that they are both (a) reasonablyexpected to be to everyone'sadvantage,and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all."17These principles representan interpretationof the political significanceof the freedom and equality of persons. But, to repeat, it is an abuse of terms to see these principlesas a resultof choice, consent, agreement,or, as it is fashionableto say today,the product of deliberation.18 They arebinding, for Rawls,not because in common and jointly assented to out are hashed they but becausethey arereasonable. They "arenot contingent or conditions."19 social desires Along present upon existing with the conception of moral personality they presuppoint." pose, they answerthe need for an "Archimedean They areof practicalvalue "forappraisinginstitutions and for guiding the overalldirection of social change."20 Unfortunately,Rawlsobscuresthe function of the original position and the veil of ignorancethat constitutes it, through use of the metaphorof discussionand debate. In fact, the original position is not a point of departurefor the collaborativediscovery of the moral foundations of politics. Nor is it a frameworkfor the give and take of restrainedpublic debate. Rather,it is a representationor modeling of common intuitions among citizens of liberal democracyabout moral and political life and a means for clarifyinginferencesthat should be drawn from them.21 Because it presupposes that what is morally worthy in human beings is the capacity for moral reasoning-and not, for example,also an individual's passionsand virtues; or friendships and family and faith; or achievements in public and private life-the original position is suffused

it shouldbe conwith moraljudgment.22 And therefore troversial reasonable people. among Indeed, the supposedlyaustereassumptionsabout relies on whichRawls's arethemhumannature reasoning Nor are selvesnot secured by theory. they reallyaustere. on are based instead They opinionsabout psychology, that and morality, metaphysics are very much open to certainly question, amongthosewhosejob it is to underideas.It is not justthatthe idea standmoralandpolitical is itselfa grandmoral of the inviolability of individuals In on grand Rawls's theorydepends judgment. addition, For Rawls about human psychology. example, judgments thatin practice thetwoprinciples of justice"lead supposes in whichenvyand otherdestructo socialarrangements tivefeelings arenotlikelyto bestrong,"23 without addressBurke's of the arrogance critique ing or evenmentioning in Reflections of Enlightenment rationalism on theRevolutionin France, of the democratic Tocqueville's exploration in soul's of human excellence in envy Democracy America, in chapter or Mill'sobservations on the 3 of On Liberty lassitude disdainfor customand tradition and irrational induced Andthemoral andmetabythespiritof liberty.24 to of the critical the construction idea, physical original of Rawls's secondprincipositionand the interpretation andaccomplishments, ple, thatourvices,likeourvirtues are "arbitrary froma moralperspective"25 and so justify "the distribution of natural talents as a common treating in of asset"26 flies the face commonsenseandis anything butaxiomatic formorals andpolitics, somethoughRawls timeswieldsit as a truthof reason andtheveryessence of the moralpointof view.27 These flawsin the foundations do not prevent Rawls fromilluminating liberalism's and endurdeepstructure Of particular andcentral to ing imperatives. significance, his derivation and application of the two principles of is his how of the worth or justice, exploration enjoyment of rightsin a liberaldemocracy is necessarily relatedto the socialand economicconditionsunderwhich those areexercised. of speech, Freedom forexample, conrights fersvastlygreater benefitson tenuredprofessors than it who can'tafforda soap box. What does on individuals remains afterRawlsis the extentof eminently disputable and obligation to providefor the capacity government's socialand economicbasesof equality. Rawlshas not been withouthis academic critics,the bestknownof whomcameto be calledcommunitarians. not coincidentally, the bestknownformof comPerhaps munitarian criticism wasessentially another formof proone thatsilentlyassumed the primacy liberalism, gressive of individual andwhichdidnot challenge theredisrights 28Nordidit tributivist ofA Theory requirements ofJustice. takeexception to the ideathat the primary taskfor academicpolitical wasto justifya left-liberal theory interpretation of American in the idiom of Rather, democracy.
analytic moral philosophy that it shared with Rawls, it

affirmed certainsound sociological observations about school humanbeingsthatRawls,and the socialcontract of liberalism fromwhichhe hailed,tendedto underplay. the communitarian led astray.29 Nevertheless, critique out that do It correctly human pointed beings not existin butareconstituted isolation in partby the associationsclubs and commitfamily,neighborhoods, friendships, It tees,nation,and religion-of whichwe aremembers. thatalthough we oftendo not freely alsocorrectly stressed in themis animporchoose these associations, membership tant good that the state must respectin the processof citizensas individuals. And it rightlyempharespecting we consider ourselves bound sizedthatin manyinstances by dutiesthatflowfromor aregivento us by the roleswe inhabit.However, communitarian criticscauseda great deal of mischiefby incorrectly despitetheir suggesting, ownimplicit commitment to individual freedom andequalto apprethelaw,thatit wassomehow itybefore impossible ciatethesocialsideof ournature whileremaining devoted to liberal principles.30 A Theory two yearsafter Twenty of ustice,Rawlspublisheda majorrestatement of his views. In 1993, with he soughtto provide Political a defense of jusLiberalism, thatwas"political, ticeasfairness not metaphysical." Conto the that his second book trary widespread perception markeda fundamental revisionin his thinking,Rawls and the book bearshim out, that Political emphasizes, Liberalism insteadrepresents an effortto resolve difficulties internal to his theory.31 His themeremained thatof the reasonable limitations on choicein a liberaldemocthat peoplewould chooseto live racy,or the principles if theyreasoned under Andhe continued to focus properly. on generalideasand what he took to be theirpolitical andnot on theactual wants,needs, implications expressed anddesires of his fellowcitizens. the variIndeed, despite of conservative and ety competing progressive interpretationsof liberal debated democracy vigorously beyondthe boundaries of contemporary academic life, Rawlsonce in Political Liberalism to a again particular gave partisan of American liberalism the colorof univerinterpretation andmoralnecessity. sality, objectivity, In particular, Rawls triedto allaythe concerns of critics who foundthatA Theory of usticewent too far,making claims about andpolitics thatfailed comprehensive morality to respect the limitsof reason andthe claimsof tradition andfaith.His brand of liberalism, he maintained, didnot moralclaimsor controversial dependon comprehensive first principles, and did not forsake,indeed proceeded valuesand actualagreements of people from,the shared liberal democracies.32 Indeed,contended livingin today's but ultimately Rawls,a fairlywide rangeof reasonable irreconcilable or comprehensive religious, philosophical, moralviewscouldachieve an "overlapping in consensus" of as fairness.33 In such a the support justice conception,
right is prior to the good, which means that government's March2006 1Vol. 4/No. 1 123

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task is to protect people's liberty to pursue the good as they understandit, in part by assistingin the provisionof those primary goods which all citizens need a share of whatevertheir understandingsof ultimate happiness.34 involves the The key innovation in PoliticalLiberalism This is the introduction of "theidea of public reason."35 of that form of reason,or that part reason, should govern citizensof a liberaldemocracyin deliberatingabout "'con36 Its stitutional essentials'and questions of basic justice." content is roughlyequivalentto the two principlesof justice that emerge out of the originalposition.37 It is based which is exhibited "when, on the idea of the "reasonable," are among equals say,persons readyto propose principles and standardsas fairtermsof cooperationand to abide by them willingly, given the assurancethat others will likea "willingness to accept This furtherrequires wise do so."38 the consequencesof the burdensof judgment,"or recognize that citizens in a free society inevitablywill come to differentconclusionsaboutfundamental moral,philosophical, and religious questions.39 In this constellation of notions Rawls seeks to capture the power and limits of reason's capacityto bring politics into line with justice. Yet the idea of public reason is not a correctionof the facadefound in A Theory falsedemocraticand participatory of it. Or at least it lends restatement rather a ustice but of itself to fortifying the facade. For while the purpose of public reasons is to specify principles for the conduct of public debate in a liberal state, it provides cover for the practice of advancing partisan political judgments as if they flowed from impartialreason.Takingone'sstandwith reason rather than morality-especially a "reason"into moraland politicalcontent has already which considerable been poured-is a convenient way of being partial and judgmentalwhile pretending to stand above the partisan fray. In an attempt to illustrate "comprehensivedoctrines that run afoul of public reason,"40Rawls himself illustrateshow easy it is to abuse the idea of public reasonby peremptorilydenying its approvalto moral and political judgments with which one disagrees. The illustration, which occursin a long footnote, dealswith abortion.Rawls proceeds by assuming "threeimportant political values: the due respectfor human life, the orderedreproduction of politicalsociety over time, including the family in some form, and finally the equality of women as equal citizens."41But in the very effort to show the real-lifeoperation of public reason, he dispenses with argument and instead offerspersonalauthority:
balanceof these threevalueswill Now I believeany reasonable give a woman a duly qualifiedrightto decidewhetheror not to The reasonfor this end her pregnancy duringthe firsttrimester. the politicalvalueof the is that at this earlystageof pregnancy to give andthis rightis required equalityof women is overriding, it substance and force.Otherpoliticalvalues,if talliedin, would not, I think, affectthis conclusion.42

Public reason, as Rawls briskly applies it to one of the most difficult and divisive issues of the day, goes well beyond providing the principles for conducting public debatebetweenpro-choiceand pro-lifeopinions. ForRawls it functions as the final arbiterof the debate, proclaiming that the pro-life view is unwelcome, because it does not meet public reason's minimum requirements.Indeed, the of idea public reason fails to compel or inspire Rawls to examine, or recognizea need to examine, claims made on behalf of the key competing political value, "due respect for human life" in the form of the life of the fetus or unborn child. To be fair, in subsequent publications Rawls retreated from his calmlydelivereddecreethat public reasoncleanly Neverthesettles the debate over the justice of abortion.43 less, it remainssoberingto observethat even in the hands of so conscientious and high-minded a thinker as Rawls the appealto public reasoncan serveto deny the realityof competing goods and tragicchoices and intractablequestions. The obscurity of its boundariesand the authority with which Rawls and his followers endow it allow it to serve as a magical incantation for use in the heat of debate-or in the leisureof scholarship-to advancepartisan causesby cutting off discussion,shutting down questioning, and stoppingthe inquiringmind deadin its tracks. In The Law of Peoples,which appeared several years after his retirement,Rawls extended his reasoningabout when it justice to internationalrelations.Unsurprisingly, comes to foreign affairsand the laws that binds nations intera progressive, and states,it turns out reasonrequires international humannationalorderand an interventionist, rights agenda. Unsurprising as well is that the idea of functions once again public reason in The Law of Peoples both to declare independence from and disguise dependence on morality and metaphysics.To avoid, under the guidance of public reason,the making of universal,comprehensiveclaims about the human good, political liberals on the internationalplane, as on the domestic plane, seek a "sharedbasis of justification"that "can be uncovYet political liberalisms very ered by due reflection."44 quest for laws and institutions that can in principle be sharedby and justified to all is motivated not in the first about the need to gather considerations placeby prudential majority support but by the sort of universal, comprehensive claims-by virtue of our common humanity, all people's opinions are deserving of respect-that it earnestly forswearsand says, for the record, that it does without.45 Rawls's"politicalconception of justice"was supposed to representa "freestanding" liberalism,a liberalismrestcitizens'sharedintuitions on democratic liberal ing solely about the freedom and equality of persons in society.46 But the ambiguities of Rawls'sown thinking cast doubt on the proposition that the intuition that we are free and equal is itself freestanding,or that the determination to


Perspectives on Politics

respectwhat human beings share is devoid of substantial or controversialmoral and metaphysicalpresuppositions. If liberalism's fundamentalpremiseis not simply basedon observation or given by reason or vindicated by being shared, might it also involve faith? Might it even derive from and be nourished by religious faith? While some who follow Rawlsmight regardit as bad mannersor worse in a discussionof political theory to raisequestionsentangled with human nature and metaphysics,let alone relion the gion, publication at the end of his careerof Lectures himthat Rawls shows (2000) Philosophy HistoryofMoral self raised such questions and found something of vital importanceat stake in how they were answered. In fact, the old quarrelbetween liberalismand religion goes back to the beginning, to the emergenceof the liberal tradition in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in responseto the Europeanwars of religion. In the name of the rights of individuals,the foundersof the liberaltradition elaboratedconstraintson religion's political authority and politics' religious authority.As the liberal idea took hold, individuals demanded more and more autonomy from the state-and from religion. Yet whereasthe state and its lawmaking apparatusgrew, in part to secure the conditions of freedom,the demandsof autonomy increasingly reducedfaith'sdomain. After much progressin freedom over several centuries, a question remains: Is it Can one reasonably reasonable for a liberalto be religious? claim to put freedom first while also embracingon faith teachings about where we come from, what we are, and how we ought to live? Such doubts have a distinguished pedigree in the liberal tradition, and they have impelled liberalsto regardreligionwith intense many contemporary if not suspicion, outright hostility. It is common to suppose that while liberalsmust tolerate religious faith it would be unreasonablefor them to which providessome of his professit. But in the Lectures, most searching examination of liberalism'sfoundations, Rawls providesreasonsto believe that far from being the antithesisof freedom, religiousfaith of a certainsort may be the basisof our respectfor freedom, the very thing that rendersour respectfor the dignity of man rational. The Lectures is basedon an extraordinary cycle of notes that Rawls regularlyrevisedfor a class on moral philosophy he taught on many occasions at Harvard between 1962 and 1991. As in all his writings, he gives pride of to questions about moral reasoning. place in the Lectures the title's Despite suggestion that it will provide a panoramic survey, and despite his extended discussions of to the hisHume and Hegel, Rawls turns in the Lectures in of moral the narrow intertory philosophy apparently est of making sense of Kant. But he turns to Kant with grand ambition: to make sense of the moral life as it truly is. The implication, quite consistentwith A Theory ofJustice and the books that followed, is that the history of moral philosophy culminates in Kant and more or less

moral philosocomes to an end in the Kantian-inspired work own that Rawls's exemplifies. phy based on a His interpretationof Kant in the Lectures, close and sympathetic reading, sheds light on Rawls's considered judgmentabout the extent to which liberalism's moral foundations are secured by reason. On the one hand, he emphasizesthe centralityto Kant'sphilosophy of "the fact of reason."This is "the fact that, as reasonable beings, we are conscious of the moral law as the supremelyauthoritativeand regulativelaw for us and in our ordinarymoral thought and judgment we recognize it as such."47In other words, the very operation of reason compels us to accept the moral law. On the other hand, Rawls stressesKant'sview that the moral law only achievesits full justificationin the spirit of religiousfaith:
Kant gives to I conclude by observingthat the significance the morallaw and our acting from it has an obvious religious has a devotionalcharacter. aspect,and that his text occasionally What gives a view a religiousaspect,I think, is that it has a it as in certain conceptionof the worldas a whole that presents The respectsholy, or else as worthyof devotionand reverence. life musttakea secondary valuesof secular place.If this everyday is right, then what gives Kant'sview a religiousaspect is the dominantplace he gives to the morallaw in conceivingof the worlditself.Forit is in followingthe morallawas it appliesto us, a firm good will, and in and in strivingto fashionin ourselves thatalonequalifies us to be shapingour socialworldaccordingly the finalpurposeof creation. Withoutthis, our life in the world, and the worlditselflose theirmeaningand point. of the mention of the we see the significance Now, perhaps, I: "Itis impossibleto world in the firstsentenceof Groundwork conceiveanythingin the world, or even out of it, that can be takenas good without qualification, excepta good will." At firstit seemsstrangethat Kantshouldmentionthe world we ask.Now perhaps we see here.Why go to such an extreme? then, that in the second why it is there.It comes as no surprise, he should say that the step to religionis takenfor the Critique sake of the highest good and to preserveour devotion to the morallaw. These religious,even Pietist,aspectsof Kant's moralphilosothem misses phy seem obvious;any accountof it that overlooks much that is essentialto it.48

In view of how much, as Rawlsemphasizes,it shareswith Kant, one is impelled to say of Rawls'sphilosophy something similar to what Rawls says of Kant's philosophy. Any account of it that overlooksits metaphysicaland religious aspectsmisses much that is essentialto it.49 In the Lectures, as throughouthis writings, Rawls's prodigiousphilosophicallaborsbroughtto light, in some cases unwittingly, stresses and strains, fissures and flaws, and ironic twists and turns in the liberalspirit. In the process, Rawls exposed conflicting qualities to which the liberal spiritgives rise. On the one hand, an appreciationthat the moral foundationsof liberalismarebound up with a faith in human dignity that is not entailed or guaranteedby reasonmay encouragea certainhumility,of the sort demonstratedin the virtueof toleration,in the energeticinterest in the varietyof ways of being human, and in a certain March2006 1Vol. 4/No. 1 125

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skepticism about comprehensiveclaims about moral and political life. On the other hand, the conviction that the founding truthsof liberalismareimplicit in common sense and that judgmentsabout political institutionsand public policy are derivable by the healthy operation of human reasonmay promote a certainhubris. It is this hubristhat one sometimes sees among those who are satisfied that those who disagreewith them on moraland political matterssufferfrom wicked or twisted minds and deserveto be segregatedinto separateintellectualcommunities. Rawlssays that In an instructivephrasein the Lectures, Kant'smoralphilosophy aspiresto the ideal of an "aristocracyof all."50This calls to mind John StuartMill'svision of a society of sovereignindividuals,as well as the Protestant notion of a "priesthoodof all believers."All three representvariations on a venerable modern theme: the harmonization of a substantial human equality with a sweepingindividualfreedom.To understandthe sourceof the liberal aspirationto an aristocracyof all, however,is one thing. To think through its moral and political consequences is another. Can the desire for distinction be satisfiedin a society in which everybodyis recognizedas a kind of aristocrat,sovereign,or priest?What are the practical effectson our heartsand minds of the conviction that each person is a supreme authority?And what are the implicationsfor politics of a form of moral reasoningthat authorizes all individuals equally to conceive of themThese aresome of the selvesas layingdown universallaws? raised by Rawls or his intriguing questions-seldom followers-that the publication of his probing classroom lecturesought to provokeamong those who wish to assess, rather than profess, the reasonableness of Rawlsian liberalism. Particularlyintriguing is the question about foundations to which Rawls himself constantly returnedand to which he gave consistentlyconflicting indications.On the one hand, he suggeststhat the founding moral intuitions are all but self-evident. On the other, he holds that they reston faith.Yetif good argumentscan be made on behalf of both propositions, then what is most evident is the liberalismsmoral doubt abouthow preciselyto understand to pursuethe stimfoundations.So it would be reasonable ulating thought that Rawls'sfreestandingliberalismis not only consistent with a varietyof religiousperspectives,as he emphasizes,but derives critical support from specific forms of religious faith, which he gestures at. Perhaps Rawls's conflictingaccountscan be reconciled,as the Declarationof Independencesuggests,through the idea that a certain faith impels us to hold as self-evident the truth that all persons are by nature free and equal. This is certainlynot to say that liberalismrequiresone to be religious or that religious people are more amply endowed with the liberal spirit. But for those who care about understanding liberalism, a more precise knowledge of its foundationsshould be welcome. And as a prac126 Perspectives on Politics ticalmatter,for thosewho careaboutfreedomand equality, knowledge of the foundations of the truths about morals and politics that we have long held to be self-evidentcan contributeto our ability to cultivatethe conditions under which we can keep our grip on them firm. Confrontingthe ambiguitiesof his legacyand pursuing questions provoked but not adequatelyaddressedby his philosophizing belong to the task of conserving Rawls's achievement. The liberalin John Rawlswould have it no other way.

This essayweaves together (and in places corrects)the argumentof "JohnRawls and the LiberalFaith,"in The WilsonQuarterly, Spring2002, pp. 60-69, and "The Academic Liberal,"in The Weekly Standard,Dec. 16, 2002. 1 See, for example, Berkowitz2003 and Berkowitz 1996, 36-42. 2 Mill drawsthe crucialdistinction at the end of chapter2 of On Liberty. 3 TJ, 17-22. 4 TJ, 3. 5 TJ, 18. See also, for example, 41-42, 48, 584. 6 TJ, 13. 7 TJ, 19. 8 TJ, 12. See also, for example, 16, 17, 21, 28, 31, 42, 44. 9 TJ, 141. See also, for example, 122-23, 140, 263-64. 10 Contraryto the misleadingfacadebut in keeping with the actual structureof his analysis,Rawls does explain that the argumentfor the principlesof justice in the original position "aimseventuallyto be strictlydeductive.... We should strive for a kind of moral geometrywith all the rigorwhich this name connotes." See TJ, 121. 11 TJ, 136-42. 12 Ibid. 13 TJ, 18, 53. 14 TJ, 17-22, 136-42, 504-07, 561. 15 TJ, 60. Rawls calls the formulationsof the two Subsequently,he principlesI cite here "provisional." offersa more refinedand technicalversion of both principles.See TJ, 302-303. For a more "provisional"formulation,see TJ, 14-15. 16 TJ, 60. 17 Ibid. or "delib18 When Rawls uses the terms "deliberation" erative"he generallyhas in mind not the give and take of discussion but the calm and rigor of systematic thinking. See, for example,TJ, 17, 416-24. 19 TJ, 263. 20 Ibid.

clearstatement of why the original 21 For a particularly seen not as a discussion but as a should be position see derivation, PL, 273-74. 22 See, for example,TJ, 311-12. 23 TJ, 144, 534-41. 24 Rawls does mention without discussingNietzsche's TJ, 535n8. And he does analysisof ressentiment. brieflydiscuss Freud'saccount of the origin of justice in envy and jealousy,539-41. 25 TJ, 74. 26 TJ, 101. 27 TJ, 72-75, 100-108. 28 See, for example, Sandel, 1981. 29 See Berkowitz 1995, 54-64. 30 Communitariancritics (as well as Rawls'sfollowers) generallygave short shrift to, or simply ignored, Rawls'sextended discussion of family,society and the virtues in PartIII of A Theory ofJustice. 31 PL, xv-xvi. 32 PL, 8-10. 33 PL, 133-72. 34 PL, 178-90. 35 See PL, 214-20. See also LP, 131-80. 36 PL,214. 37 PL, 223. 38 PL. 49. In fact, Rawls supposes as well the much strongerclaim that it is reasonableto regardother persons as equal. See PL, 48-54. 39 PL, 54. 40 PL, 243-44.

41 PL,243n32. 42 PL, 243n32. 43 "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,"in LP, 169, especiallynote 80. 44 LP, 19. 45 See, for example, LP,68. It might be objected that inasmuch as he emphaRawls resistsuniversalization sizes that peoples whose political society falls short of liberaljustice, so-called "decentpeoples,"nevertheless deservetoleration and membershipin the global "Societyof Peoples"governedby the law of peoples. See LP,59-88. Yet Rawlsmakes clear that this tolerationand membershipare imperativesof liberaljustice applied to foreign policy. And the very which implies definition of a people as "decent," both the achievementof a respectableminimum and the persistenceof a defect, reflectsmoral judgments rooted in liberalprinciples.Moreover,the "long run aim"of well-orderedsocieties "is to bring all societies eventuallyto honor the Law of Peoplesand to become full membersin good standing of the society of well-orderedpeoples."See LP,92-93. 46 PL, 12. 260. 47 Lectures, 48 Lectures, 160-61. 49 Consider also Rawls'sassertionthat "politicalliberalism startsby taking to heart the absolute depth of latent conflict"introducedinto the irreconcilable moral life by the Reformation.See PL, xxvi. 211. 50 Lectures,

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