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I have a very particular reason to be grateful to Stewart Sutherland, our late President, which is connected to some of the themes of this lecture, so want to begin by recalling a long conversation I had with him on these topics.
Kant’s practical philosophy, Rawls’s theory of justice and contemporary human rights thinking are landmarks in liberal discussions of justice. Each forms part of a powerful tradition of political thought, and although their substantive accounts of justice diverge at many points, they also overlap in substantial ways. This article focuses not on their substantive claims about justice, or about other ethical standards, but on their differing views of the questions to be addressed, on their proposed justifications for standards of justice, and on a limited range of questions about interpreting and institutionalizing those standards.