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John Rawls died 15 years ago—here’s why you should read “A Theory of Justice”

The great philosopher offered a new way to think about how our social and political world is organised

By James Garvey  

John Rawls. ©Harvard Gazette

John Rawls died 15 years ago this month, on the 24th of November. According to the moral philosopher TM Scanlon, “John Rawls was widely recognised as the greatest political philosopher of the 20th century. His work revived and reshaped the entire field, and its profound influence on the way justice is understood and argued about will last long into the future.”

His masterpiece is A Theory of Justice, which appeared in 1971. Its opening line says a lot about its content. “Justice is the first…

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