a1 School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
John Rawls's account of Kantian constructivism is perhaps his most striking contribution to ethics. In this paper, I examine the relation between Rawls's constructivism and its foundation in Kantian intuitions. In particular, I focus on the progressive influence on Rawls's approach of the Kantian intuition that the substance of morality is best understood as constructed by free and equal people under fair conditions. Rawls's focus on this Kantian intuition, I argue, motivates the focus on social contract that grounds both his accounts of the original position and of reflective equilibrium. Critics, including Onora O'Neill and Larry Krasnoff, object that Rawls's view distorts various aspects of Kantian moral reasoning. I argue that these objections (i) exaggerate the distinctions between Kant's and Rawls's decision procedures and (ii) reflect an unnecessarily constricted view of Kant's moral thought.