Ricoeur’s Rawls: Constitutive Antecedence and Reflective Equilibrium

Benjamin Coy Hutchens


This article aims to stimulate dispute about the justification of Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutic reading of John Rawls. Offering a close, methodically point-for-point textual engagement, I shall propose that Ricœur’s misreading of certain hermeneutic circularities in Rawls is owed to some confusion about the role of the procedural nature of Rawls’ theory. Generally speaking, the problems with Ricœur’s interpretations center on the question of whether there is something “pre-understood” within the formal theoretical understanding of the procedural theory of justice and the substantive convictions and judgments that figure within the reflective equilibrium of deliberations about the terms of justice. Arguably, Ricœur has not made a satisfactory case that the difference and liberty principles are considered convictions that anticipate their discovery and establishment. Ultimately, Ricœur has not demonstrated that there is a single presuppositional form that renders Rawls’ procedure self-defeating. Instead, he has proposed to us several potential forms of damaging presupposition, each of which is based on a questionable reading of Rawls’ text.


Hermeneutics; Justice; Reflective Equilibrium; Convictions; Maximin Rule

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/errs.2020.388

Copyright (c) 2020 Benjamin Coy Hutchens

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

This journal is published by the University Library System, University of Pittsburgh as part of its D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program and is cosponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

ISSN 2156-7808 (online)