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Berlin and Rawls

Contrast Berlin’s Comments On The Movement Of A Democratic, Liberating Reason Into A Stilted Bureaucratic Proceduralism With Rawls’ Ideas Of Maintaining Distinctions Between Legal Reasoning About Justice And The Discourses Of Utility And Intuition.
Berlin’s arguments show a huge dispute when compared to the Rawls’ political liberalism, especially when we look at the regulative role of Rawls’ political conception of justice in public reason (Plaw, 2001). In Berlin’s comments, he emphasized so much on strong moral and political pluralism which are to be used as the basis for political theory. On the other hand, Rawls’ comments emphasized so much on to terms like simple pluralism through elaboration of a consensual normative framework of public life (Berlin, 1958). According to Rawls, political liberalism has for sometime been a source or locus of political consensus. According to his own view, political liberalism helps political parties and individuals reach to a consensus. This is in contrast to Berlin’s argument where political liberalism marks a point of pluralistic contestation and on going controversy (Plaw, 2001). According to Berlin’s comments, is the basic of respecting negative liberty and it looks like it is plausible. This is in contrast to Rawls’ comments where he views political liberalism as the key to political justice.
As stated, there are a lot of contrasting issues between the argument of Berlin and that of Rawls. The comments of Berlin are majored in duality, fundamental moral, political diversity and recognition and understanding of diversity. According to Berlin liberalism provides a better chance for pluralism since it can be utilized as the method of incorporating pluralism in to the public life. He also argues that liberalism can make individuals to understand and sustain recognition (Berlin, 1958). The liberation of public sphere/life is where individuals have where individuals have different political values but at the same time, the level of recognition is also very high. This is in total contrast to Rawls’ view of liberalism (Plaw, 2001). According to Rawls, liberalism encompasses stability, regulative framework for public life which is expressed as hierarchy of public principles of justice. The justice which is included in the argument of Rawls can be utilized when resolving any kind of disputes at any level of the societal structure. This is based on consensually embraced political intuitions involving citizens who can reason and achieve a consensus in case of a dispute (Plaw, 2001). Justice and its ordered principles are used to ensure smooth running in the society. Therefore, in contrast to Berlin’s argument, Rawls defines liberal public sphere/life as the citizens who are reasonable and can come up with decisions to come to a consensus.
The contrast between Berlin’s comments and Rawls’ comments is basically due to their interpretation of public political life which brings about political theory (Berlin, 1958). As for Berlin, pluralist liberal involves the context where citizens solve differences among themselves by argument, discourse, and mutual persuasion a situation which can bring about more differences (Plaw, 2001). However, he argues that if these differences can be understood, it will make it easy to solve them. Therefore, he encourages mutual respect and understanding. As for Rawls’ argument, liberation in public life is defined by the fact that when there are arguments, justification is important and it should consider both sides (Plaw, 2001). In this context, resolvability and stability are very crucial which ensures that understanding and respect is achieved.
Another contrast between Berlin’s comments and Rawls’ comments arise when we look at their point of view about the political theory (Berlin, 1958). Berlin’s point of view is that, this is a philosophical discipline and how differences arise among human beings in the public life. In this philosophical discipline, whenever there is a difference, it is not a must that an agreement is achieved but clarification of the differences is done which can lead to an agreement or a strong disagreement (Plaw, 2001). It is in this way that individuals are able to understand themselves and assess their different beliefs which contribute to their misunderstanding. Therefore, according to Berlin, political theory majorly helps individuals to understand themselves which is very crucial when it comes to basic moral and political pluralism which eventually helps individuals to live together (Berlin, 1958). Rawls’ point of view on political theory is that there should be stable and reasonable public orders by achieving consensus by reasonable citizens. He considers public order as essential since it helps in acquiring stability, legitimacy and legitimacy which in turn prevents degeneration of public life (Plaw, 2001). The contrast comes out in that Berlin emphasis strong pluralism as the most recognizable and desirable requirements for public life. However, these are denied and avoided in Rawls’ comments.
Example of Principles of Justice
The experience of justice (fairness and equity) I encountered was about distribution of public resources. This was a situation where some money was given by a certain political leaders to be shared among the needy in the society. In most cases, when there is something to be shared among the public, the leaders in that particular community are given the chance to determine those who are needy. It was under this circumstance where some of the community leaders needed to take some money for their own use and yet there were some really needy individuals who needed the money but they could not get it.
The community leaders were the determinants of who to get the money or not. In this case, there were some other individuals who were not really needy but were put in the list of receiving the money because they were friends to the community leaders. Since I was in charge, community members came to me complaining about the unfair dealings by the community leaders. My liberty was limited because the community leaders were better placed than I was to determine who really deserved to receive the money. However, I did not ignore the issue because I was determined to ensure that justice is done. I was able to transform this situation by insisting on gaining the transparency about this matter. For this case, I knew the differences between the community and the community leaders could only be understood and resolved by getting the correct information on who rightfully deserves the money.
The correct information could only result from consulting all the community members. Therefore, I gathered all the community members and read out the names of the individuals who had been selected by the community leaders. The community members were supposed to give their opinions about every person in the list. Any person who community members felt that did not deserve the money was automatically removed from the list. The person they approved remained in the list. After the truth about all the individuals in the list provided by community leaders was revised, the same community members were given the opportunity to fill the gaps which remained after chopping out those who were not actually needy. This was the only way justice could have been done for these needy individuals.


Berlin, I. (1958). Two Concepts of Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Plaw, A. (2001). Isaiah Berlin’s Pluralist Thought and Liberalism: A Re-Reading and Contrast with John Rawls. Retrieved on June 29, 2011 from

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