Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Starr, William

Second Advisor

Bauer, Keith

Third Advisor

Ibanez-Noe, Javier


This dissertation begins with an exploration of the method John Rawls uses to justify his choice situation, the original position, and his conception of justice, justice as fairness. The method consists of three criteria that Rawls' theory of justice is able to meet, leading him to declare the original position, and the conception of justice be derives from it, philosophically most favored. Once this method of justification has been explicated, a method of evaluating theories of justice that meet the criteria for justification will be established. The primary purpose of this dissertation is to apply this method of justification to Jean-Jacques Rousseau' s social contract theory and comparatively evaluate it against Rawls' theory of justice. The results of this application show that Rousseau's contracting situation and conception of justice are able to meet the three criteria of Rawls' method. This shows that Rousseau's theory is justified in exactly the same manner as Rawls' theory of justice. The two theories are then evaluated, and it is argued that Rousseau's social contract theory must be declared philosophically most favored.



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