Friday, December 11, 2009

Rawls Comments

MSI's post prompted some interesting comments. Hilarius Bookbinder wrote here:
It seems like Miss Self-Important is conflating a few different tendencies together: e.g. the tendency of Rawlsian political theory to look more like philosophy, etc. Mostly, though, she seems to be assuming the bankruptcy of Rawlsian liberalism by judging some (by no means the best) of his followers. See Michael Walzer and John Tomasi for some more imaginative contributions not possible without Rawls.

(I'm also prepared to defend Rawls as a pretty subtle and interesting thinker, but that's another argument for another time)

For the record, I am in no way a Rawlsian and also did not read him until grad school.


Rawls is not, let's say, a big instant-gratification guy (as perhaps Nietzsche and Rousseau are), unless you happen to dig the difference principle. He does, however, have a way of sticking with you for a long time. I'm not sure I entirely understood him until I taught him, at which point it becomes clear that: 1. he's anticipated many of the easy objections to his system and 2. it's all quite sophisticated.

The same general principle is true of Nozick. I've long had the theory that everyone feels so let down by Anarchy, State and Utopia because they think it will be 'the libertarian answer to Rawls' written in the style of Rawls. Nozick says in his preface, of course, that he won't be doing that, but, of course, no one listens, and they get mad at him for not doing what they think he should do.

Otto writes, also here, and I must admit I laughed really hard at this comment:
Rawls is the most boring writer in the English language. He may be the most boring writer in any language, but I can only read three so I can not make a comprehensive judgment on the matter. He is certainly more boring than the ingredient lists on food that I read while eating. So I think we can say he is more boring than any writer in Russian as well. I tried reading him once and got to page 50 before I passed out. I then a few days later tried to continue and got only 10 pages before I passed out from boredom.

Artheusa writes:
Uh, I hadn't heard of Rawls and Nozick

Of course you didn't. You were too busy learning about All Cretans being liars in Classics kindergarten.

Over at MSI's blog, Jacob T. Levy writes:
Sigh. I'm so sorely tempted to engage in a Rawls apologia that would take much more time than it's worth. I don't myself do the kind of Rawls-tinkering you're talking about, or write much about him at all. But his work and that of his major respondents is important, valuable, and worth knowing.

It's also important to keep the Rawls-and-after justice literature distinct from the deliberative democracy literature, which really isn't the same kind of thing.

Also over there, some guy named Jon attempts to defend Rawls but I'm completely baffled by his argument despite his taking time to enumerate each of his points.

1 comment:

Miss Self-Important said...

Jon is a friend of mine from high school and college. As he indicates, bafflement at his comments should be taken as a failure of comprehending intelligence, not elucidating skill. The onus is on us to read carefully and deeply.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.