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Boundaries and AllegiancesProblems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought$
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Samuel Scheffler

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257676

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199257671.001.0001

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Rawls and Utilitarianism *

Rawls and Utilitarianism *

Chapter:
(p.149) 9 Rawls and Utilitarianism*
Source:
Boundaries and Allegiances
Author(s):

Samuel Scheffler (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199257671.003.0010

After reviewing John Rawls's arguments against utilitarianism in A Theory of Justice and then examining Michael Sandel's and Robert Nozick's criticisms of those arguments, Scheffler points to three important similarities between utilitarianism and Rawls's own theory. Both the theories are systematic and constructive in character, both treat common‐sense notions of justice as deriving from a more authoritative standard, and both are committed to distributive holism, in the sense that they regard the justice of any assignment of benefits to a particular individual as dependent on the justice of the overall distribution of benefits in society. These similarities may make it seem that Rawls's theory fails to remedy utilitarianism's neglect of the distinctness of persons. But Scheffler argues that Rawls's theory accommodates holistic pressures while maintaining a commitment to the inviolability of the individual. Scheffler also suggests that the complexity of Rawls's attitude toward utilitarianism in A Theory of Justice may help to explain his willingness, in Political Liberalism, to treat utilitarianism as a candidate for inclusion in an overlapping consensus.

Keywords:   benefits, distributive holism, inviolability, justice, Robert Nozick, overlapping consensus, Michael Sandel, utilitarianism

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