On Rawls's The Law of Peoples and the Toleration of Decent Hierarchical Societies
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn the dissertation I offer an interpretation and assessment of Rawls’s The Law of Peoples and his position regarding the toleration of decent hierarchical societies (DHSs). I reject interpretations according to which Rawls maintains that DHSs have legitimate domestic political institutions and interpretations according to which the main reasons for toleration are pragmatic. Instead, I argue that DHSs are intended to be understood as reasonable, stable, and nearly well-ordered political societies, and that the grounds for toleration are all the grounds implied by this idea. I situate Rawls’s development of criteria for a DHS as part of his overall aim to develop a complete liberal political conception of justice, and in explicating Rawls’s constructivism I emphasize that Rawls has taken no official stand that liberal political principles are universally valid. This opens some room for the toleration of DHSs. The interpretation I develop also emphasizes that for Rawls “toleration” means much more than non-interference. It also includes a commitment to participation with DHSs in international institutions. But this opens his position up to a number of objections. Participation with DHSs may have external effects that makes regarding DHSs as equal participating members in good standing of a Society of Peoples impossible.
Degree ProgramGraduate College