The Virtuous Citizen: Rawls and Cohen on the Scope of Egalitarian Justice
My thesis responds to G. A. Cohen’s criticism that Rawls’ theory of justice arbitrarily limits its scope to political and social institutions. On Cohen’s view, there is no reason why we should not demand the same principles stipulated by justice as fairness at the level of everyday decisions. By clarifying Rawls’ position, in both justice as fairness and his conception of public reason, I will show how Cohen’s arguments against Rawls can be defused. I argue that the scope of egalitarian justice rightly applies primarily to the main social and political institutions. However, taking people as they are—with their various preferences and attitudes—is limited by the principles of justice in organizing a fair scheme of cooperation. Furthermore, for Rawls, citizens who hold democratic values act from the criterion of reciprocity when deliberating on matters of political coercion. And this, so I argue, is the mark of a virtuous citizen.