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Justification by Reflective Equilibrium

Justification by Reflective Equilibrium

Famously, John Rawls is regarded as using reflective equilibrium (RE) to justify his principles of justice. But the point of justification by RE in Rawls's more recent work is not easily established since he regards his own work as still contractarian. In order to clarify matters, I distinguish between wide and narrow RE, as well as show that wide RE consists of several kinds of narrow RE: RE as a plea for (re)consideration, RE as a constructive procedure of choice, and safe ground RE. The connection of these REs is shown in order to reach justification. The point of introducing RE for justification is seen in opening the range of possible revisions to allow for consensus. However, (the lack of) wide RE for itself is not enough to bring about revision. Rather, an additional causal link between two kinds of RE is proposed to be necessary.

1. Famously, John Rawls uses the method of reflective equilibrium (RE) to justify his principles of justice. (1) But the point of justification by RE in Rawls's more recent work is not that easy to establish, since he regards his own work still as contractarian. Accordingly, it is peoples', citizens', or rational deciders' acceptance of the basic notions, methods, and results of Rawls's framework at its different stages (2) that is to establish his Justice as Fairness. Since every single one of us supposedly has already accepted a moral view of the world, though not the same one, it is in the end with regard to that moral view of the world, (3) or in Rawls's terms, that comprehensive theory of the good, (4) that the principles of justice have to be justified. (5) From the point of view of every one of us who reads Rawls's work or from the point of vi...

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