Games appear in a variety of contexts within Rawls’s thought: as examples of practices in his early essay, “Two Concepts of Rules”; as contrasting with nonvoluntary systems of cooperation, and so governed by norms of fairness rather than justice, in “Justice as Fairness”; as examples of social unions in part iii of A Theory of Justice; and in the guise of game theory in the development of and argument from the “original position” in part I of Theory. This entry will briely summarize each usage and then suggest what they might have to do with one another.
In “Two Concepts of Rules” (1955), Rawls introduces the idea of a “practice”: “the speciication of a new form of activity” (CP 36) which is deined by a set of rules that are logically prior to the particular actions within it. Rawls illustrates the idea of a practice with the game of baseball (37). The rules of baseball not only regulate but make possible a series of activities like striking out or stealing a base. Rawls introduces the idea of a practice to distinguish two sorts of justiication: the justiication of a practice as a whole and the justiication of an action within a practice.