Priority of liberty under non-ideal circumstances

Leandro Martins Zanitelli


This work addresses the applicability of Rawls’s theory of justice in non-ideal circumstances. The goal, more particularly, is to assess the urgency role that Rawls and some of his interpreters confer to justice of fairness under non-ideal circumstances. In Rawls’s case, the urgency role means, in sum, that infringements to the first principle of justice (the basic liberties principle) must be treated as more serious and urging than infringements to the second principle. The paper’s main conclusion is that a “strong” understanding of this role has unbearable consequences, worse still than those entailed by the same relation of lexical priority between the two principles under the (ideal) condition of strict compliance. The problem is that, in circumstances of no strict compliance, scarcity of political means needed to make institutional improvements may impose total neglect of second principle issues until the first principle is wholly satisfied.


Liberty, Priority, Non-Ideal Theory, Strict Compliance, Rawls

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Author’s work 2016

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