Friday, April 15, 2005

Reason and liberalism

I've been reading John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. I've been doing it slowly, mostly because I'm little slow on the comprehension side methinks. Anyway, last night, my friend Bryant and I sat down for our first discussion on the first 60 pages of the book. These are the pages which lay out the groundwork for the rest, including introducing the reader to Rawls' two principles of justice.

In the course of our discussion, we hit on the point that the idea that the two principles give no guidance for addressing contentious moral and political issues such as abortion. Given that I have little experience reading philosophy apart from a couple of introductory classes in college, I wondered whether my inability to apply the principles to such issues might be indicative of my own intellectual shortcomings, rather than the theory's. Imagine my relief, then, when I Googled "john rawls" and "abortion" and came across this article from the Wilson Quarterly. Turns out, other folks, including Rawls himself, find it difficult to resolve moral questions by solely relying on the theory of justice. Perhaps I'm not a total philosophical dunce!

Regardless of my intellectual capacities, the article is pretty dang interesting and relevant even if you've never read (or tried reading) Rawls. For those of you looking for an intro into the key texts of modern liberalism (and I know there's tons of you...), this might be a nice start.

Update: Oh yeah, and the article discusses the role of religion and reason in liberalism, a topic that seems to come up with relative frequency on this blog.