I have started reading Rawls' last book, Justice As Fairness: A Restatement, in preparation for the Reading Group I shall be leading for some doctoral students in the UNC Chapel Hill Philosophy Department this semester. I am only 40 pages into the book, but I find it simply eerie -- one of the strangest books of philosophy I have ever read. It is filled with passive constructions and ritual phrases -- at one point, I started underlining the word "reasonable" and its cognates in order to see how many times Rawls uses them on a single page. All of the excitement and drama of the original version has evaporated. Every time Rawls approaches a point at which he might appear to be arguing for some substantive claim that might provoke an argument, he tiptoes away into euphemisms.
My son, Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff of the UPenn Law School, put it to me perfectly this way in an e-mail:
"It almost sounds like he's writing in the voice of Her Majesty the Queen of England. More to the point, he treats his own past work as a natural phenomenon that has great significance merely by existing and needs to be understood and interrogated and interpreted -- the project of the "Restatement" -- instead of a piece of work like any other that rises or falls on its merits. He came to believe in his own deification."