Tag Archives: John Rawls

In Defense of Moral Philosophy

I posted the following in response to someone who claimed that studying moral philosophy is useless and cited John Rawls’ philosophy as an example:

Ethics deals with important real world issues. Subjectivist or not, it is a good idea to have positions on things like abortion, capital punishment, and advance directives that you have thought through and can justify to other people, because those issues decide what laws we pass. There is even a decent chance that some of these issues might affect you personally someday.

For example, A Theory of Justice is about how we want to organize society. Do we want a society where some people can become much, much wealthier than others due to their innate talents, or do we want a society that will compensate people for the disadvantages they received at birth? Either answer has huge implications for politics, and there is no way for a society to avoid choosing between these alternatives in some form.

Additionally, if you don’t take positions on moral issues and think them through, you will be vulnerable to anyone who has. If you don’t think about Rawls’ viewpoint carefully, the next Rawlsian you come across who has a well put together case will probably change your mind or at least shake your confidence in your own moral and political views. Isn’t it worth spending some time on your intellectual self defense?