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Thomas Pogge: Rawls’s Difference Principle

John Rawls, American political philosopher, best known for his defense of egalitarian liberalism in his major work, A Theory of Justice (1971). He is widely considered the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. The difference principle is the second part of the second principle of Rawls’s theory of justice, which has caused controversy.


To learn more about difference principle, Prof. Qin Tian invited Prof. Thomas Pogge, one student of Rawls and the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale, to give a lecture on the ninety-first Luojia Lecture Series on Environmental Law. This lecture was held on the afternoon of May 16, 2019, students from RIEL and other schools attended this lecture.


Prof. Pogge started with poverty phenomenon and other social problems and illustrated the topic and main goals of Rawls’s theory. The topic for moral analysis and possibly reform is social institutions or basic structure. He then explained Rawls’s difference principle in depth. The basic structure should be so designed that social and economic inequalities it generates are to the greatest benefit of society’s least advantaged members. He also mentioned the opportunity principle which should take precedence over the difference principle.


Subsequently, Prof. Qin briefly summarized and commented the content of this lecture. He pointed out that Rawls’s theory of justice has a huge impact on the global scale. Prof. Pogge illustrated Rawls’s principles vividly with examples, which would be helpful for future legal research and practice.


At the end of this lecture, Prof. Qin presented the certificate to Prof. Pogge for providing a wonderful lecture. The lecture ended in a harmonious atmosphere.