The much debated relations between Rawls and classical utilitarianism are always studied through the kantian face. However, historically, we have to compare Pareto and Rawls so as to understand the rawlsian criticism to utilitarianism. The history of original position stresses the mutual disinterest and not the veil of ignorance. This respect of individual interests is a paretian point. Besides, the rawlsian and paretian critics to Bentham are based on the same arguments. But to build a theory of justice, a sort of common measure is necessary, and this idea is not paretian. The study of the Pareto and Rawls’ relation about classical utilitarianism has to underline this difference and try to explain it. We will suggest the following idea. This sort of common measure is the counterpart of the kantian desire. On the debate about Rawls and utilitarianism, the two notions are in the heart of interpretations.
These lines briefly relate the scientific part of nearly fourty years of discussions with John Rawls. Their interest – if they have any – can rest in three contributions. First, this relation shows the genesis of John Rawls’ concepts and thought. Second, it implies a criticism of these concepts and shows how Rawls faced it. Finally, this desciption exhibits an essential feature of the history of polical philosophy, the idiosyncrasis of English-language thinking in this domain, in opposition to the rest of the world and in particular to the thought developed in France. Indeed, utilitarianism has only been the philosophy of English-language scholars. Rawls first is the philosopher who will have tried to put English-language political philosophy on the path of normality based on liberty and equality after two centuries of Benthamite dogmatism.