Most contemporary liberal theorists of justice attempt to derive substantive principles of justice from some combination of debate, consent, information and impartiality. In many respects the early Rawls is the boldest of these since he seeks to bring together a decision-making model for institutionalizing informed and impartial consent with a separate claim that what comes out of this model are principles which we can independently evaluate as sound and acceptable standards of justice. Drawing on both sources of moral insight he seeks to make them mutually reinforcing by drawing them together through a process of critical reflection aimed at ‘reflective equilibrium’ (see p. 97). Having exposed himself on both these fronts — procedural and substantive — Rawls has attracted a barrage of criticism which has led him to retreat into a more secure but less daring position from which he holds himself out as doing no more than providing a path to a pragmatic political consensus in certain types of liberal society. Similar fates have befallen the less ambitious approach of Dworkin and the more simplistic theories of Nozick and Posner.
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