Procedural justice? Implications of the Rawls-Habermas debate for discourse ethics

Cristina Lafont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In this paper I focus on the discussion between Rawls and Habermas on procedural justice. I use Rawls's distinction between pure, perfect, and imperfect procedural justice to distinguish three possible readings of discourse ethics. Then I argue, against Habermas's own recent claims, that only an interpretation of discourse ethics as imperfect procedural justice can make compatible its professed cognitivism with its proceduralism. Thus discourse ethics cannot be understood as a purely procedural account of the notion of justice. Finally I draw the different consequences that follow from this reading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-181
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • John Rawls
  • Jürgen Habermas
  • discourse ethics
  • imperfect procedural justice
  • moral anti-realism
  • moral cognitivism
  • moral realism
  • perfect procedural justice
  • pure procedural justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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