Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Philosophy Dept.


Cheshire Calhoun


John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971), his first major work articulating his theory of justice as fairness, was immediately recognized as a fundamental contribution to political philosophy in the twentieth century. Working within the tradition established by previous philosophers such as Kant and Locke, Rawls employed the contract theory approach. Taking it to a higher order of abstraction, he sought to determine not what the structure of social organization would be, but what the principles which governed social institutions would be under a hypothetical contracting situation. Rawls uses this contract theory approach to construct a society in which the morally irrelevant contingencies of nature and social arrangements are mitigated by principles of justice which govern the basic institutions of society. A common observation has been that Rawls left out any discussion of health care and how it might fit into his conception of a just society. Several philosophers have articulated expansions of the theory to account for health care. In the chapters that follow I will continue this tradition and consider how justice as fairness might be expanded to account for just health care allocation. In doing so, I hope to answer a particularly strong critique of the theory brought up by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, and to argue for a broadened conception of health care which takes into account the complex causal relationship between society and human health.


Fairness, Justice, Rawls John, Theory of justice, Political science, Medical care