, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 245-260
Date: 28 May 2011

Rawls and Rousseau: Amour-Propre and the Strains of Commitment

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Abstract

In this paper I try to illuminate the Rawlsian architectonic through an interpretation of what Rawls’ Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy say about Rousseau. I argue that Rawls’ emphasis there when discussing Rousseau on interpreting amour-propre so as to make it compatible with a life in at least some societies draws attention to, and helps explicate, an analogous feature of his own work, the strains of commitment broadly conceived. Both are centrally connected with protecting a sense of self which is vital for one’s own agency. This allows us to appreciate better than much of the literature presently does the requirement for Rawls that justice and the good are congruent, that a society of justice does not disfigure citizens’ ability to live out lives relatively unmarked by relations of domination. Some comments on G. A. Cohen’s critiques of Rawls are made.