John Rawls (Transl. by: Andrei Korbut 1 )
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Two concepts of rules

2013, vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 16–40 [issue contents]

In his famous paper John Rawls outlines a version of utilitarianism that takes into account the existing criticism of the utilitarian approach. Author shows that the traditional objections expressed in relation to two test cases of utilitarianism — punishment and promise-keeping — are based on the misunderstanding of utilitarian position, because they don’t make a distinction between justifying a practice and justifying a particular action falling under it. In the case of punishment, there two justifications of it: the retributive view that presupposes that punishment is justified on the grounds that wrongdoing merits punishment, and the utilitarian view that holds that punishment is justifiable only by reference to the probable consequences of maintaining it as one of the devices of the social order. According to the author, utilitarian arguments are appropriate with regard to questions about practices, while retributive arguments fit the application of particular rules to particular cases. In the case of promising, truly utilitarian approach presupposes that promisor must weigh not only the effects of breaking his/her promise on the particular case, but also the effect which his/her breaking promise will have on the practice itself. Author thinks that the distinction between justifying a practice and justifying a particular action falling under it was neglected not only by the critics, but by the utilitarians themselves, due to the prevalence of the summary view of the rules. Rawls suggests his own, practical conception of the rules, that presupposes that practices are prior to particular cases of their application.

Citation: Rawls John (2013) Dve kontceptcii pravil [Two concepts of rules] The Russian Sociological Review, 2, pp. 16-40 (in Russian)
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