Representation and Obligation in Rawls’ Social Contract Theory

Southwest Philosophy Review 14 (1):47-54 (1998)
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The two justificatory roles of the social contract are establishing whether or not a state is legitimate simpliciter and establishing whether any particular individual is politically obligated to obey the dictates of its governing institutions. Rawls's theory is obviously designed to address the first role but less obviously the other. Rawls does offer a duty-based theory of political obligation that has been criticized by neo-Lockean A. John Simmons. I assess Simmons's criticisms and the possible responses that could be made to them, including those offered by Samuel Freeman. I conclude they rest on a Rawlsian equivocation and ultimately fail.

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Simon Cushing
University of Michigan - Flint


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