Rawls’s Self-Defeat: A Formal Analysis

Hun Chung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


One of John Rawls’s major aims, when he wrote A Theory of Justice, was to present a superior alternative to utilitarianism. Rawls’s worry was that utilitarianism may fail to protect the fundamental rights and liberties of persons in its attempt to maximize total social welfare. Rawls’s main argument against utilitarianism was that, for such reasons, the representative parties in the original position will not choose utilitarianism, but will rather choose his justice as fairness, which he believed would securely protect the worth of everybody’s basic rights and liberties. In this paper, I will argue that, under close formal examination, Rawls’s argument against utilitarianism is self-defeating. That is, I will argue that Rawls’s own reasons, assumptions, and the many theoretical devices he employs demonstrably imply that the representative parties in the original position will choose utilitarianism instead of justice as fairness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1169-1197
Number of pages29
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Logic


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