Principles for Individual Actions

  • Burleigh T. Wilkins
  • Kelly M. Zelikovitz


Although John Rawls is a persistent critic of intuitionism where intuitionism is taken to be the thesis that there is a plurality of first principles in morality and that there is no rationally defensible way of establishing priorities among these principles, the suspicion persists that Rawls’ own theory of justice is closer to intuitionism than Rawls recognizes. Even if Rawls has succeeded in lexically ordering the two principles of justice so that liberty is prior to equality, except in situations where the very survival of society is at stake, Rawls’ success is seriously qualified if it is confined to the choice of principles for the design of social institutions and does not extend to the choice of principles for actions by individuals. Here Rawls’ indictment of intuitionism as ‘but half a conception’ of justice (TJ, 41) appears to haunt his own conception of justice, especially since Rawls himself acknowledges that principles for individual actions are ‘an essential part of any theory of justice’ (ibid., 108).


Individual Action Original Position Majority Rule Mutual Respect Civil Disobedience 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Burleigh T. Wilkins
  • Kelly M. Zelikovitz

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