The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good

John Rawls, "The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good," Philosophy and Public Affairs 17 (1988): 251–76.

“The idea of the priority of right is an essential element in what I have called political liberalism, and it has a central role in justice as fairness as a form of that view. That priority may give rise to misunderstandings: it may be thought, for example, to imply that a liberal political conception of justice cannot use any ideas of the good except those that are purely instrumental; or that if it uses noninstrumental ideas of the good, they must be viewed as a matter of individual choice, in which case the political conception as a whole is arbitrarily biased in favor of individualism. I shall try to remove these and other misunderstandings of what the priority of right means by sketching its connection with five ideas of the good found in justice as fairness: (i) the idea of goodness as rationality, (2) the idea of primary goods, (3) the idea of permissible comprehensive conceptions of the good, (4) the idea of the political virtues, and (5) the idea of the good of a well-ordered (political) society.”

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