John Rawls was an eminent American philosopher, who made remarkable contributions to the fields of moral and political philosophy. Rawls is best known for his highly praised and widely discussed book, ‘A Theory of Justice’, which is globally regarded as the most significant work in political philosophy. His work and theories in political philosophy have given birth to the school of thought named Rawlsianism.
John Rawls was born on February 21, 1921, in Baltimore, Maryland, to parents William Lee Rawls and Anna Abell Stump Rawls. He belonged to an affluent family, his father worked as a solicitor. John attended a local school in Baltimore for his early education, and later, he attended the Kent School in Connecticut. In 1939, he was accepted at Princeton University. In 1943, John received his degree of Bachelor’s in Arts, and enrolled in the United States Army to fight against the German forces during the World War II, he left the army upon beholding the horrific events of the Hiroshima bombing.
After leaving the army, in 1946, John resumed his studies at the Princeton University, and received his Ph.D. in moral philosophy. In 1950, he published his doctoral thesis, titled ‘A Study in the Grounds of Ethical Knowledge: Considered with Reference to Judgments on the Moral Worth of Character’. The same year, he began teaching at the Princeton University. In 1951, he published an article in the Cornell University journal Philosophical Review, titled ‘Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics’. Later, he published ‘Justice as Fairness’ and ‘The Sense of Justice’ in the same magazine.
In 1952, John received the Fulbright Fellowship to Oxford University. He returned to America a year later, and accepted the position of assistant professor at the Cornell University, later he rose to the post of associate professor. Over the course of the next ten years, John became a full-time professor at Cornell University, in addition to a tenured position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, he chose to accept a teaching position at Harvard University.
In 1963, he was commissioned by the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy to write a chapter for their Yearbook, ‘Nomos, VI: Justice’, John authored ‘Constitutional Liberty and the Concept of Justice’. In 1967, he contributed a chapter, titled ‘Distributive Justice’, for Laslett and Runciman’s book, titled ‘Philosophy, Politics and Society’. The next year, he published his widely read and applauded article, titled ‘Distributive Justice: Some Addenda’. In 1971, he published his magnum opus, his most significant contribution to the field of ethics and political philosophy, titled ‘A Theory of Justice’.
In 1974, John published his highly acclaimed article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, titled ‘Reply to Alexander and Musgrave’. The same year, he authored another praise-worthy article in the American Economic Review, titled ‘Some Reasons for the Maximin Criterion’. In 1993, he published a revised version of his earlier work, ‘A Theory of Justice’ as ‘Political Liberalism’. Later that year, he also published an inspiring article in Critical Inquiry, titled ‘The Law of the Peoples’. In 2001, John Rawls decided to address the criticism garnered by his work in ‘A Theory of Justice’, as a response to the critics of his work, he published ‘Justice as Fairness: A Restatement’.
John Rawls has been applauded and celebrated for his contributions to ethical and political philosophy. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Rolf Schock Prize for his contributions to the field of ‘Logic and Philosophy’, and the same year, he was also awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 1995, John suffered a series of severe strokes, which rendered him unable to work. He passed away on November 24, 2002, in Lexington, Massachusetts, at the age of 81.