Comprehensive or Political Liberalism? The Impartial Spectator and the Justification of Political Principles

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Abstract

John Rawls raises three challenges - to which one can add a fourth challenge - to an impartial spectator account: (a) the impartial spectator is a utility-maximizing device that does not take seriously the distinction between persons; (b) the account does not guarantee that the principles of justice will be derived from it; (c) the notion of impartiality in the account is the wrong one, since it does not define impartiality from the standpoint of the litigants themselves; (d) the account would offer a comprehensive, rather than a political, form of liberalism. The narrow aim of the article is to demonstrate that Adam Smith's impartial spectator account can rise to Rawls's challenges. The broader aim is to demonstrate that the impartial spectator account offers the basis for a novel and alternative framework for developing principles of justice, and does so in the context of a political form of liberalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUtilitas
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science

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