John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition.
Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."In his 1990 introduction to the field, Will Kymlicka wrote that "it is generally accepted that the recent rebirth of normative political philosophy began with the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice in 1971." Rawls has often been described as the most important political philosopher of the 20th century.
He has the unusual distinction among contemporary political philosophers of being frequently cited by the courts of law in the United States and Canada and referred to by practising politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom.Rawls's theory of "justice as fairness" recommends equal basic rights, equality of opportunity, and promoting the interests of the least advantaged members of society.
Rawls's argument for these principles of social justice uses a thought experiment called the "original position", in which people select what kind of society they would choose to live under if they did not know which social position they would personally occupy.
In his later work Political Liberalism (1993), Rawls turned to the question of how political power could be made legitimate given reasonable disagreement about the nature of the good life.