Gender, Choice and Partiality

Essays in Philosophy 7 (1):29-48 (2006)
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Feminist philosophers have argued that the family, as an institution, falls short of justice and have raised concerns about the effects of the family on women and girls. Three lines of critique have focused on John Rawls’ account of the family in A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism. First, Rawlsian liberalism fails to provide sufficiently robust protections against sexist non-public associations (including the traditional family). Second, Rawlsian liberalism fails to recognize that families, as a rule, are unfair for women and girls. Third, Rawlsian liberalism gives insufficient attention to the moral development of children within families. In this paper, I defend the place of the family in Rawlsian liberalism against these criticisms. In particular, I argue that family autonomy and family privacy are important for securing a primary good- the development of individuals’ capacity for partiality.

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