points of agreement
agutmann at PRINCETON.EDU
Thu Dec 10 14:06:14 PST 1998
Sandy invited me to say something about Rawls. The relevant philosophical
distinction that Rawls makes is between conceptions of justice and
comprehensive moral conceptions (of the good life).
Rawls's theory authorizes the state to intervene in matters of justice.
Rawls's conception of justice--like many others that are detachable from a
comprehensive moral conception of the good life--is likely to be consistent
with many (although not all) conceptions of the good life.
Two practically-relevant things about the relationship between political
and parental authority vis-a-vis children can be said with some certainty
(1) Rawls's theory does not present reasons to prevent a constitutional
democracy from intervening so as to protect the basic liberties or further
the basic opportunities of children or support a "well-ordered democracy"
into the future, even if some parents (or others) object on religious--or
secular grounds for that matter--to the intervention.
(2) Rawls's theory does present reasons to prevent a constitutional
democracy from asserting exclusive control over the education of children,
since asserting exclusive control would entail acting from a comprehensive
conception of the good.
At 10:40 AM 12/10/98 -0600, Sanford Levinson wrote:
>I need to think more about Michael's invocation of Rawls. He's probably
>right that a principled refusal to allow the state to intervene in behalf
>of one comprehensive view over another, so long as both are "reasonable,"
>would count as a "philosophical" point, though it remains true that the nub
>is figuring out the boundary line between "reasonable" and "unreasonable."
>(Indeed, given that Amy Gutmann has now so happily entered our
>conversation, I hope that she'll offer a quasi-authoritative statement on
>what Rawls would say!) I also want to think more about Amy's own statement.
Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics
Director, The University Center for Human Values
302 Louis Marx Hall
Princeton, New Jersey 08544
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