One of history’s most cited and influential thinkers, American moral and political philosopher John Rawls is responsible for introducing some of the most seminal concepts in modern political theory. His many books and essays, in particular his magnum opus A Theory of Justice (1971), remain standard in many courses of political science and law.
While I do not have the time to highlight the many Rawlsian ideas that have deeply impacted me — namely public reason and the veil of ignorance — I invite you to learn more for yourself by checking out these full lectures made freely available by the Harvard Philosophy Department via Open Culture.
In these talks, Rawls explains and expands on his core principles: equality of opportunity and the “difference principle”, which states that any and all inequality should benefit the least well-off members of a society. Rawls’ brand of political liberalism (also a title of one of his books) has influenced presidents, judges, and legislators with arguments directly contrary to some of the right’s ideological architects, many of whom in fact wrote in reaction to Rawls. We are free to accept his claims or not, but Rawls’ significant contribution to the terms of modern political discourse is inarguable.
See them here or get them all here. These lectures are well worth your time, especially if you are among the millions of people living in democratic societies who are concerned about where society and politics are headed. Please feel free to weigh in or share your reactions.