Rawls’ primary legacy is not that he standardised a particular view of justice, but rather that he standardised a particular method of arguing about it: justification via reflective equilibrium. Yet this method, despite such standardisation, is often misunderstood in at least four ways. First, we miss its continuity across his various works. Second, we miss the way in which it unifies other justificatory ideas, such as the ‘original position’ and an ‘overlapping consensus’. Third, we miss its fundamentally empirical character, given that it turns facts about the thoughts in our head into principles for the regulation of our political existence. Fourth, we miss some of the implications of that empiricism, including its tension with moral realism, relativism, and conservatism.
- Rawls; reflective equilibrium; method; justification; principles