Distributive Justice: Some Addenda

John Rawls, "Distributive Justice: Some Addenda," Natural Law Forum 13 (1968): 51–71.

On this occasion I wish to elaborate further the conception of distributive justice that I have already sketched elsewhere. This conception derives from the ideal of social justice implicit in the two principles proposed in the essay “Justice as Fairness.”‘ These discussions need to be supplemented in at least two ways. For one thing, the two parts of the second principle are ambiguous: in each part a crucial phrase admits of two interpretations. The two principles read as follows: first, each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others; and second, social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices equally open to all. The two ambiguous phrases in the second principle are “everyone’s advantage” in part (a) and “equally open to all” in part (b). I shall consider these ambiguities and the several interpretations of the two principles to which they give rise. I shall leave aside any difficulties with the first principle and assume that its sense is the same throughout and dear enough for our purposes.

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