Re-Reading Rawls in Arendtian Light: Reflective Judgment and Historical Experience Articles uri icon



publication date

  • January 2008

start page

  • 135

end page

  • 153


  • 1-2


  • 34

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0191-4537

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-734X


  • With Arendt's insight regarding the need of judgment in the background, this paper pursues the ways in which the need for theory, or political philosophy, articulates Rawls' overall approach in order to tell just from unjust institutions. It suggests that the Kantian mould of reflective judgment gives form to the construction of a theory of justice via the mechanism of reflective equilibrium. The need for theory so devised has to constantly move between the demands of theory itself — the social contract tradition as understood by Rawls — and the demands of action understood as the guide that our considered judgments lend to our understanding of the social world. Finally, it is also suggested that a particular grasp of the lessons of historical experience, as a way of fulfilling the need for theory that lies in the heart of the exercise of judgment, is what renders the Rawlsian proposal theoretically attractive, and what constantly underlies the construction of his theory via the particular exemplification and the theoretical rendering of the moral semantics underlying democratic culture.