A Kantian Conception of Equality

John Rawls, "A Kantian Conception of Equality," Cambridge Review (1975): 94–9. Reprinted as “A Well-Ordered Society,” in Philosophy, Politics, and Society, Vol.5, edited by P. Laslett and J. Fishkin (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1979) pp. 6–20.


When fully articulated, any conception of justice expresses a conception of the person, of the relations between persons, and of the general structure and ends of social cooperation. To accept the principles that represent a conception of justice is at the same time to accept an ideal of the person; and in acting from these principles we realize such an ideal. Let us begin, then, by trying to describe the kind of person we might want to be and the form of society we might wish to live in and to shape our interests and character. In this way we arrive at the notion of a well-ordered society. I shall first describe this notion and then use it to explain a Kantian conception of equality.

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