Antony Flew’s fine essay on the infelicities of John Rawl’s treatment of justice (“‘Social’ Justice Is Not Justice,” July) would, I think, have benefited from calling attention to the fact that Rawls appears to have been influenced very much by a scientistic account of human character formation.

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls says that “The assertion that a man deserved the superior character that enables him to make the effort to cultivate his abilities is problematic; for his character depends in large part upon fortunate family and social circumstances for which he can claim no credit.” Evidently Rawls does not believe any of us comes to deserve very much in life since, by his lights, our character, the source of our meritorious or virtuous (as well as vicious) conduct, is largely not of our own making. It is no surprise, then, that Rawls takes us all to be equal and so believes that no one ought to have a better go of it than anyone else unless such a policy advances the lot of us all.

This tribal view of human community life is what ultimately underlies Rawls’ (and many other thinkers’) preference for aggressive redistribution of benefits and harms in any human community.

In order to address this matter, it is necessary to explore whether human beings are free to make significant choices in their lives, choices that will make a serious difference in whether they achieve various advantages for themselves and their loved ones. In short, we need to settle the issue of freedom of the will, a topic very rarely addressed by those who pursue the study of politics.

        —Tibor R. Machan
Orange, CA