- Chunyan Zhu
Collingwood once said: “The history of political theory is not the history of different answers to one and the same question, but the history of a problem more or less constantly changing, whose solution was changing with it.” Rawls clearly thinks that Collingwood exaggerated his expression a little, he thinks that we do still have some question, which beneath this changing history flow.
These questions are:
- What is the nature of a legitimate political regime?
- What are the grounds and limits of political obligation?
- What is the basis of rights, if any? And the like.
These questions have been discussed by different thinkers in various historical contexts. Their world and circumstances shaped their perspectives and their thoughts, which in turn impacted their world as outcome. These impacts can be viewed in two ways: first, by trying to interpret their world, and second, by exercising the constructive role of thoughts. The latter is far more powerful than the former.
Rawls believes that in order to understand the problems and answers of each thinker's time, we must immerse ourselves in their scheme of thought. By doing so, we can truly grasp the pulse of their age. While we cannot expect their solutions to directly solve the problems we face today. Therefore, our first effort should be to understand their exact words and to interpret them from their point of view, in the best way possible. This will enable us to use their answers to understand our own time and the difficulties or questions we face within it.