John Rawls

by Brian on August 14, 2003

Does anyone know who was John Rawls’s PhD dissertation advisor? This question came up in discussion around here (a propos of nothing much at all) and no one knew, but I imagine at least one reader, if not a fellow Timberite, will know.



David Sucher 08.14.03 at 6:29 pm

And to think that anyome might wonder if this is an academic blog!


Matthew Yglesias 08.14.03 at 6:49 pm

I dunno. I do know that he spent the summer after he got his PhD doing the index for Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche, so maybe it was Kaufmann. If you care to look it up somewhere, the title was “A Study In The Grounds of Ethical Knowledge: Considered With Reference to Judgments on the Moral Worth of Character” which is notable for having been transformed into a journal article that contains zero footnotes or other citations.


David 08.14.03 at 6:51 pm

Here’s something:

“A Study in the Grounds of Ethical Knowledge: Considered with Reference to Judgments on the Moral Worth of Character.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 1950. Abstract in Disserta tion Abstracts (1955), 15(4):608-609.


Shai 08.14.03 at 7:00 pm

Proquest digital dissertations only sells it in hardcopy. If all else fails you can ask J.B. Schneewind:

“J.B. Schneewind, philosopher and historian, tells of arriving at Princeton as a student and observing Rawls defend his doctoral dissertation. Such an ordeal can be a friendly ceremony, a rite of passage, or a blood bath exacted by barbarous professors. The young Rawls turned it into an erudite lesson by citing to the professors passages from Kant—in German!”


micah 08.14.03 at 7:04 pm

Rawls’s dissertation supervisor was Walter Stace. At least, that’s what Thomas Pogge says in an essay called “A Brief Sketch of Rawls’s Life,” reprinted in Richardson and Weithman, The Philosophy of Rawls: Development and Main Outlines of Rawls’s Theory of Justice (Garland, 1999). Apparently, Rawls also worked with Norman Malcolm and Max Black (author of that wonderful book, “The Prevelance of Humbug and other essays”:


David 08.14.03 at 7:05 pm

I sent an e-mail inquiry to Ann Getson, a contact person at the Phil. Dept.

Maybe she’ll send a reply. I’ll let you know.


Brian Weatherson 08.14.03 at 7:08 pm

Much thanks for all the quick feedback!


Matthew Yglesias 08.14.03 at 8:19 pm

Is it just me or is that a really bad title? He must have gotten some big time assistance before coming up with A Theory of Justice.


Walter 08.14.03 at 10:05 pm

Eh, even A Theory of Justice is pretty blah. Rawls has nothing on Hobbes and Nietzsche.


PG 08.15.03 at 3:52 pm

:-) I always think of A Theory of Justice being the Old Testament (Political Liberalism the New), so I don’t expect it to have a snappy, clever title.


zizka 08.17.03 at 12:40 am

Stace, best known for a book on mysticism. Kaufmann, stuck with trying to convince everyone that Nietzsche and Hegel weren’t Nazis or Commies. Surtprising, really.

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