A Phenomenological Appropriation of Ricoeur’s Critique of Rawlsian Contractualism and Kantian Deontology for the Purposes of Building a New Theory of International Economic Justice
Rajesh Sampath

This paper explores Ricoeur’s critique of Rawls’sA Theory of Justice, particular it’s famous “difference principle” on the justification of social and economic inequalities for the “least advantaged.” Ricoeur takes issue with a ‘purely procedural theory’ from which universal and publically-recognized principles of justice that regulate the basic institutions of society in terms of fairness are alleged to arise. From a technical philosophical perspective, he asks whether the social contract tradition in general (albeit raised to a more ‘abstract’ form in Rawls’s creative thinking) can be blended with the Kantian priority of individual autonomy with each individual as an end in itself worthy of dignity and respect. I then evaluate the limits of Ricoeur’s critique of Rawls’s philosophy in general by rereading Ricoeur’s perspectives on utilitarianism and what Ricoeur calls as its ‘teleological doctrine of justice’ of the greatest good for the greatest number: this is in contrast to Ricoeur’s very elegant restatement of the Rawlsian critique of utilitarianism in terms of the idea of the ‘maximin,’ or maximizing the benefits of economic inequality for the least advantaged and distributing the burdens of such an undertaking appropriately and fairly. Ricoeur’s main issue with Rawlsian deontology based on procedural reasoning is that in fact his theory calls for an ‘ethical foundation of justice’ but fails to deliver on it. I conclude with the need to surge passed Ricoeur’s critique of Rawls and Rawls’s philosophy by transferring the search for the ‘ethical foundation of justice’ to an outline for a new theory of international economic justice, which neither Ricoeur nor Rawls adequately develops.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijpt.v2n4a2