Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Why the Basic Structure is Basic: A defense of the doctrinal autonomy of political philosophy
by Murray, Pete, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2013, 198; 3603293
Abstract (Summary)

In my dissertation, I defend John Rawls's claim that the question of the design of the basic structure of society is the central question of distributive justice. The basic structure, on my understanding, and following Samuel Freeman, is the system of basic background institutions within which we pursue our everyday lives. It includes the institutions of our political and legal system, our system of property, our economic system, and the legal structure of the family.

Rawls argues that any conception of distributive justice appropriate for a liberal democratic society must be a political conception, which means three things. First, a political conception of justice must be freestanding from what Rawls calls comprehensive moral, religious, and philosophical views. This means that it shouldn't depend essentially on any one or any subgroup of reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Second, a political account is expressed in terms of fundamental ideas implicit in liberal democratic culture. Third and finally, a political account of justice, says Rawls, takes as its object of evaluation the basic structure of society.

I argue that such a system of institutions, consisting of a set of coercively enforceable rules, is a requirement for equal freedom among interacting, embodied persons. In showing that this claim is well founded, I also argue that liberal political philosophy is not merely a form of applied moral philosophy, but instead must be an autonomous area of inquiry within moral philosophy more generally. Moreover, the liberal political conception of justice together with a particular basic structure that conforms to the requirements of justice set constraints on permissible answers to other moral questions that fall outside of the sphere of political philosophy, and so in this way political justice has a form of priority within moral philosophy broadly understood.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mandle, Jon
Commitee: Hessler, Kristen, Howell, Robert
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Basic structure, Distributive justice, Kant, Political right, Rawls, John
Publication Number: 3603293
ISBN: 9781303577338
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