Rawlsian Self-Respect<sup>1</sup>

Cynthia A. Stark

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662951
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745195 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

Rawlsian Self-Respect1

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A prominent element of Rawls's legacy is his uniting justice with self-respect. Indeed, Rawls appeals to the good of self-respect to justify several features of “justice as fairness” — the highly influential account of distributive justice he presents in A Theory of Justice. Most who have considered the role of self-respect in Rawls's theory, throughout the four decades since its publication, have agreed that Rawls's view rests upon an irreparable equivocation between two different ideals of self-respect. In the face of this critical consensus, this chapter attempts to resurrect Rawls's approach. It argues, first, that Rawls relies upon an unambiguous notion of self-respect as a secure belief that one's contribution to one's scheme of social cooperation matters. Rawls is not clear, however, whether the value of self-respect is merely instrumental or also intrinsic. Second, it is argued that Rawls's main objective in arguing that justice as fairness supports citizens' self-respect is not, as many have thought, to show that his principles support citizens' self-respect generally, but to show that his principles counter the effects of the market on lower class citizens' sense of worth. This discussion establishes that Rawls, in the end, sees self-respect as having intrinsic worth.

Keywords: self-respect; Rawls; conception of the good; self-esteem; primary social goods; Aristotelian principle; social cooperation; priority of liberty; difference principle; envy; civil equality; justice as fairness

Chapter.  9555 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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