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John Rawls in his book "Political Liberalism" lays out a political system that answers the fundamental question.

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Introduction

John Rawls in his book "Political Liberalism" lays out a political system that answers the fundamental question, "How is it possible for there to exist over time a just and stable society of free and equal citizens, who remain profoundly divided by reasonable religious, philosophical and moral doctrines?" (Rawls, 4) He answers this question through a number of abstract conceptions. Rawls argues that a political conception of justice, an overlapping consensus, and public discussion conducted in terms of the political conception of justice will bring about a just and stable society of free and equal citizens. Rawls starts out by outlining his idea of "Justice is Fairness"; this idea has a number of different aspects. He lays out two primary principles of justice, uses the idea of original position to back up liberalism, and argues for the necessity of democracy beyond formal democracy. The first principle of justice is: Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all; in this scheme the equal political liberties, and only those liberties, are to be guaranteed their fair value. ...read more.

Middle

Rawls disagrees with many earlier philosophers such as Kant, who believed that a society could be created fairly with only one comprehensive doctrine. He sees differing comprehensive doctrines as inherent in democracy. "The diversity of reasonable, comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines found in modern democratic societies is not a mere historical condition that may soon pass away; it is a permanent feature of the public culture of democracy." (Rawls, 36) There are two basic parts required to bring about an intermingling of comprehensive doctrines; one all doctrines must be reasonable, and two an overlapping consensus must exist. Both of these requirements are controversial, but they do allow for a possible society wherein all may live their comprehensive doctrines, and participate in the political. The first (and hardest to define) requirement for a unified society is that all comprehensive doctrines be reasonable. Rawls defines reasonability when, "persons are reasonable in one basic aspect when, among equals say, they are ready to propose principles and standards as fair terms of cooperation and to abide by them willingly, given the assurance that others will likewise do so." (Rawls, 49) He goes on to state, "This reasonable society is neither a society of saints, nor a society of the self-centered." ...read more.

Conclusion

This statement shows Rawls' views on how the overlapping consensus is purely political in nature. He argues that people have a sense of justice that uses overlapping consensus to create political values. "A sense of justice is the capacity to understand, to apply, and to act from the public conception of justice which characterizes the fair terms of social cooperation." (Rawls, 19) This public consensus of justice can allow for a political dialogue to take place, which enables reciprocity to exist between various communities and holders of comprehensive doctrines. Rawls has answered his question; "How is it possible for there to exist over time a just and stable society of free and equal citizens, who remain profoundly divided by reasonable religious, philosophical and moral doctrines?" (Rawls, 4) He shows in "Political Liberalism" how it is possible to create a society that both protects individual liberties, while at the same time creating a true democracy with equality of opportunity. He resolves the issue of differing comprehensive doctrines through the use of reasonableness and overlapping consensus. His two principles of justice ensure that individual rights are protected and secure. Political discussion is allowed for through individual sense of justice and ensuring that unreasonable comprehensive doctrines are excluded from the society. Most importantly true democracy is enabled by ensuring equality of opportunity and equal influence upon the political process. Knupp 1 ...read more.

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