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A Theory of Justice Essay

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Rawls is one of the few contemporary philosophers who uses natural rights as his standard term (Hart is another). We will assume, though, that he means by natural rights roughly what others have meant by human rights. And I will treat these ways of talking as more or less interchangeable.

We can also assume that Rawls does not mean by natural rights what Thomas Hobbes and John Locke did; for them a natural right was any right that an individual had in the state of nature. Such a doctrine would have no appeal to Rawls. He rarely speaks of such a state, and when he does, it is, by and large, to distinguish his account of the original position from that of the state of nature in classical contract theory. In Rawls's view, one would reach such a state only if the participants in the original position failed...

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