Pre-Liberal Political Philosophy

Rawls and Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas


John Rawls is the most influential 20th century political philosopher, but critics have complained about the ahistorical character of his approach. The purpose of this book is to argue that these critics are, at best, only half correct.Pre-Liberal Political Philosophy concentrates on four pre-liberal thinkers who are major figures in the history of philosophy and who are surprisingly formative in the development of Rawls’s mature political philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.
Several illuminating connections are drawn between Rawls’s political liberalism and Plato’s contrasting appeal to the “noble lie” in politics, between Rawls’s overall method of reflective equilibrium and Aristotle’s dialectic, between Rawls’s opposition to merit in the distribution of wealth and Augustine’s similar anti-Pelagian stance, and between Rawls’s view of a just society as a common good of common goods and the natural law dimension of Aquinas’s philosophy. In general, the distance between Rawlsian abstraction and his historical embeddedness is lessened considerably.

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Daniel A. Dombrowski is Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University. He is the author of twenty books and over one hundred and eighty articles in scholarly journals in philosophy, theology, classics, and literature. Among his books are Rethinking the Ontological Argument: A Neoclassical Theistic Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Contemporary Athletics and Ancient Greek Ideals (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); and Process Philosophy and Political Liberalism: Rawls, Whitehead, Hartshorne (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019).


1Rawls and Plato: The Noble Lie and Social Contract Theory
 1 Introduction

 2 The Very Early Rawls

 3 The Mature Rawls and the Noble Lie

 4 Ferguson’s Criticisms

 5 Strauss and the Straussians

 6 Page’s View

 7 The Smith-Brickhouse Stance

 8 Annas and Bok

 9 Political Liberalism

 10 Social Contract Theory

 11 Conclusion

2Rawls and Aristotle: Reflective Equilibrium and the Battle between the Ancients and the Moderns
 1 Introduction

 2 Some Basic Similarities and Differences

 3 Wolterstorff’s View

 4 Dworkin’s View

 5 Natural Rights

 6 Critique of Wolterstorff’s View

 7 Relativism

 8 The Ancients and the Moderns

 9 The Aristotelian Principle

 10 Virtue

 11 The Capabilities Approach

 12 Conclusion

3Rawls and Augustine: Sin, Pluralism of Comprehensive Doctrines, and Nonideal Theory
 1 Introduction

 2 Sin

 3 Infancy and Childhood

 4 God as Personal

 5 Pluralism of Comprehensive Doctrines

 6 Just War Theory

 7 Abortion

 8 Nelson on Pelagianism

 9 Conclusion

4Rawls and Aquinas: Deliberative Rationality, Love, and Justice
 1 Introduction

 2 The Common Good

 3 Natural Duty

 4 Faith and Sin

 5 Nonhuman Animals

 6 Deliberative Rationality

 7 Types of Dominant Ends

 8 Justice

 9 Love

 10 Freeman’s and Pogge’s Contributions

 11 Facilitation of a Just Society

 12 Conclusion

5Rawls and History: Ahistoricism and Contextualism
 1 Introduction

 2 Plato’s Philosophy of History

 3 Two Interpretations of Kant

 4 Crucial Points in History

 5 Ahistoricism and Contextualism

 6 Recognition

 7 Robust Reasonableness

 8 Lefebvre and Spiritual Exercises

 9 Conclusion



Scholars and graduate students in the following areas should be interested in this book: political philosophy, political thought, ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, political theology.
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