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Original scientific paper

Rousseauian Heritage of Rawls’s Moral Psychology

Xinghua Wang orcid id ; Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Philosophy, Jianguomennei Street, No. 5, CN–100732 Beijing

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Some authors have noticed Rousseau's influence on Rawls's original position argument for justice as fairness, but few have argued for Rousseau’s influence on his moral psychology, which constitutes the first part of his stability argument. I will argue that Rawls’s account of moral development parallels, and is grounded in, Rousseau’s thoughts on amour-propre. In particular, I argue that (1) Rawls’s thesis that the sense of justice is derived from love and friendship is an illustration of Rousseau’s thesis that moral sentiments are derived from natural sentiments, that (2) Rawls’s explanation for how we acquire the reciprocity of disposition is grounded in Rousseau’s explanation of how amour-propre can be extended into the sense of justice, and that (3) Rawls’s thoughts on the principle of sympathy parallel Rousseau’s thoughts on compassion.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, amour-propre, John Rawls, moral psychology, sense of justice

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