Economic Modeling in Rawls

The Original Position


  • David C. Coker University of Maryland, Baltimore County, United States



Critics of Rawls's A Theory of Justice frequently envision his original position as containing a human consciousness. Thus, the re- strictions Rawls introduces for this ‘individual’—the lack of particular circumstantial and personal information—is considered a potential problem. The very ways in which Rawls circumscribes the knowledge available in this position is thought to compromise the personhood of the individual there, and hence as well the conclusions reached (that is, Rawls’s two principles). This paper will argue that, on the contrary, the lack of full personhood is a critical part of Rawls’s modeling strategy, and that Rawls borrowed this particular sense of modeling from eco- nomics. It is well known that Rawls worked to verse himself in economic theory, and it is difficult to overlook its use in Theory. It will be argued that it is through parallels with economic reasoning that Rawls’s original position model can be most fruitfully understood.

Author Biography

David C. Coker, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, United States

David C. Coker holds a BA in English Literature from Amherst College and a PhD in Economics from George Mason University, and is currently teaching History of Thought at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has published work on James Buchanan, Frank Knight, and John Rawls.




How to Cite

Coker, D. C. (2023). Economic Modeling in Rawls: The Original Position. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 15(2), 1–26.