John Rawls Essay Questions

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Essay Topic 1

Consider the political movements of the 20th and 21st Century (Gay Pride, Women's Liberation, Occupy, the Civil Rights Movement, etc.). How do these movements relate to Rawls’ theory of the Social Contract and the Original Position?

Essay Topic 2

To what extent do you agree or disagree with Rawls's theory of Justice as Fairness?

Essay Topic 3

Compare and Contrast Rawls’ theory of Justice as Fairness with the school of Utilitarianism.

Essay Topic 4

How can we consider A Theory of Justice to be a work-in-progress?

Essay Topic 5

Evaluate your own society in accordance with the principles of Justice as Fairness put forth by Rawls. To what extent is it a just society in its basic political and legal structure? In what ways do you consider it an unjust society?

Essay Topic 6

Is Rawls’ theory of the Original Position (the Waiting Room argument) idealist in nature? How does it...

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  1. Robert Paul Wolff: In Defense of Anarchism

    1. What is Wolff’s argument for anarchism?

    2. Can political authority ever be justified? Can you imagine any situations in which political authority would be acceptable? Explain.

  2. Thomas Hobbes: The Absolutist Answer: The Justification of the State Is the Security It Affords

    1. Do you agree with Hobbes’s view of human nature? Is self-interest the only motivation that people have in their dealings with one another?

    2. Are Hobbes’s absolutist view of government and democracy in conflict? Explain.

  3. John Locke: The Democratic Answer: The Justification of the State Is Its Promotion of Security and Natural Human Rights

    1. How do Locke’s view of human nature and Hobbes’s view differ?

    2. What are the four limits on the legislative power that Locke proposes?

  4. John Stuart Mill: A Classical Liberal Answer

    1. How would Mill’s principle of liberty apply to unpopular minorities who performed actions that the majority thought immoral (but not harmful)?

    2. What would Mill’s principle of liberty imply about the treatment of homosexuals, pagans, and pornographers?

  5. John Rawls: The Contemporary Liberal Answer

    1. Rawls says that we do not deserve our natural talents and abilities. Do you agree? Why or why not?

    2. Do Rawls’s principles imply a “welfare state”? Explain.

  6. Robert Nozick: Against Liberalism

    1. What is Nozick’s argument against liberalism? Do you accept it? Why or why not?

    2. How would Rawls reply to Nozick?


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