Emotional Control   /   Spring 2010   /    Book Reviews

John Rawls’s A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith

Nicholas Wolterstorff

A Brief Inquiry is the undergraduate senior thesis that John Rawls submitted to the Princeton Philosophy Department in December 1942. We owe its discovery to Eric Gregory, member of Princeton’s Religion Department, who came across it one day when browsing through the card catalog of the Princeton library for senior theses by famous Princeton alumni. The title intrigued him, so he asked to see it. He discerned its significance at once. It’s an essay in Christian ethics written by the same person whose later publications made him the most famous and influential political philosopher of our generation. Rawls has usually been interpreted as a purely secular philosopher who tolerated religion but had no interest in it. Both those who applaud and those who criticize Rawls as so interpreted will now have to take account of the intensely religious Rawls of A Brief Inquiry.

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