John Rawls is the most influential Anglo-American political theorist of the past three centuries. In bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Rawls in 1999, Bill Clinton noted that he had put our liberties on a brilliant new foundation. That foundation is a refined version of the social contract as developed by early modern thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. It is of particular interest for Humanists since it provides an objective but workable basis for politics and ethics. It is neither objective, that is, in the sense of some transcendental foundation like God or Nature, nor purely subjective, with the nihilist dead end to which that leads. It is a contract, the basic terms of which, Rawls argues, we would (and do) accept as the basis of our politics and ethics. Besides presenting the basic method and principles for which Rawls argues, Carcieri will also present Rawls’ famous theory of civil disobedience, which builds upon the work of Thoreau, Gandhi, King, and others.

Martin Carcieri is an Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University, where he teaches courses and seminars on Constitutional Law and Political Theory. He holds a J.D. and Ph.D. from the University of California, and has published twenty-five journal articles and book chapters.

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