Completing Rawls's arguments for equal political liberty and its fair value: the argument from self-respect

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (2):179-205 (2013)
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Despite the vast literature on Rawls's work, few have discussed his arguments for the value of democracy. When his arguments have been discussed, they have received staunch criticism. Some critics have charged that Rawls's arguments are not deeply democratic. Others have gone further, claiming that Rawls's arguments denigrate democracy. These criticisms are unsurprising, since Rawls's arguments, as arguments that the principle of equal basic liberty needs to include democratic liberties, are incomplete. In contrast to his trenchant remarks about core civil liberties, Rawls does not say much about the inclusion of political liberties of a democratic sort – such as the right to vote – among the basic liberties. -/- In this paper, I complete some of Rawls's arguments and show that he has grounds for including political liberties, particularly those of a democratic nature, in the principle of equal basic liberty. In doing so, I make some beginning steps toward illustrating the genuinely democratic nature of Rawls's arguments. Rawls believes that a few different arguments can be given for democratic institutions and that these arguments work together to support the value of democracy. In this paper, I focus on Rawls's arguments relating to self-respect. I focus on this set of arguments because they are among the strongest of Rawls's arguments for equal political liberty and its fair value.

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Meena Krishnamurthy
Queen's University


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