Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Moral stability and liberal justification: An examination of the notion of stability in Rawls' theory.

Chow, Po Chung (2006) Moral stability and liberal justification: An examination of the notion of stability in Rawls' theory. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (7MB) | Preview


This thesis offers a comprehensive examination of the notion of moral stability in Rawls's political philosophy. I argue that the problem of stability is essentially concerned with the motivational priority of a sense of justice. A conception of justice is justified if and only if it can effectively motivate rational agents to act as justice requires. It is a constitutive condition of justifiability rather than a practical matter of feasibility. I vindicate my claim through a philosophical interpretation of Rawls's account of practical reason for action. I then contend that stability plays an essential role in Rawls's two stage justification. At the first stage, taking place in the original position, stability is one of the main grounds for Rawls's principles. Nevertheless, I argue that the motive for contractors to adopt the maximin rule stems from moral considerations rather than an egoistic rational choice. At the second stage, the question of how to reconcile justice and goodness arises. We need to consider whether the regulative desire to act justly is congruent with a person's own good. This concern leads to Rawls's congruence argument through a Kantian interpretation of human nature. I suggest that this interpretation has turned Rawls into a liberal perfectionist within a classical teleological framework - a position inconsistent with Rawls's desire-based conception of prudential rationality. It is this internal inconsistency which makes the congruence argument fundamentally flawed. I then turn to examine political liberalism and point out that the idea of an overlapping consensus fails to justify the priority of political values over non-political ones. Finally, I propose an idea of potential congruence to support justice as fairness as a stable conception of justice. I conclude that this is the right direction to resolve the problem of stability and justification.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Government

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics