It is hypothetical in the sense that the principles to be derived are what the parties would, under certain legitimating conditions, agree to, not what they have agreed to. Rawls seeks to use an argument that the principles of justice are what would be agreed upon if people were in the hypothetical situation of the original position and that those principles have moral weight as a result of that. It is ahistorical in the sense that it is not supposed that the agreement has ever been, or indeed could ever have been, derived in the real world outside of carefully limited experimental exercises.
Part 5 in Arc’s series: The Greatest Works In Philosophy
Rawls modifies and develops the principles of justice throughout his book. In chapter forty-six, Rawls makes his final clarification on the two principles of justice:. The first principle is often called the greatest equal liberty principle. Part a of the second principle is referred to as the difference principle while part b is referred to as the equal opportunity principle. Rawls orders the principles of justice lexically, as follows: 1 , 2 b , 2 a.
The first principle must be satisfied before 2 b , and 2 b must be satisfied before 2 a.
Justice After Rawls
As Rawls states: "A principle does not come into play until those previous to it are either fully met or do not apply. The greatest equal liberty principle is mainly concerned with the distribution of rights and liberties. Rawl's identifies the following equal basic liberties: "political liberty the right to vote and hold public office and freedom of speech and assembly ; liberty of conscience and freedom of thought ; freedom of the person, which includes freedom from psychological oppression and physical assault and dismemberment integrity of the person ; the right to hold personal property and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law.
It is a matter of some debate whether freedom of contract can be inferred to be included among these basic liberties: "liberties not on the list, for example, the right to own certain kinds of property and freedom of contract as understood by the doctrine of laissez-faire are not basic; and so they are not protected by the priority of the first principle. Rawls' claim in b is that departures from equality of a list of what he calls primary goods—"things which a rational man wants whatever else he wants" [Rawls, , p. His position is at least in some sense egalitarian , with a provision that inequalities are allowed when they benefit the least advantaged.
An important consequence of Rawls' view is that inequalities can actually be just, as long as they are to the benefit of the least well off.
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His argument for this position rests heavily on the claim that morally arbitrary factors for example, the family one is born into shouldn't determine one's life chances or opportunities. Rawls is also oriented to an intuition that a person does not morally deserve their inborn talents; thus that one is not entitled to all the benefits they could possibly receive from them; hence, at least one of the criteria which could provide an alternative to equality in assessing the justice of distributions is eliminated.
Further, the just savings principle requires that some sort of material respect is left for future generations. Although Rawls is ambiguous about what this means, it can generally be understood as "a contribution to those coming later" [Rawls, , p. The stipulation in 2 b is lexically prior to that in 2 a. This is because equal opportunity requires not merely that offices and positions are distributed on the basis of merit, but that all have reasonable opportunity to acquire the skills on the basis of which merit is assessed, even if one might not have the necessary material resources - due to a beneficial inequality stemming from the difference principle.
It may be thought that this stipulation, and even the first principle of justice, may require greater equality than the difference principle, because large social and economic inequalities, even when they are to the advantage of the worst-off, will tend to seriously undermine the value of the political liberties and any measures towards fair equality of opportunity. In , A Theory of Justice was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review by Marshall Cohen, who described the work as "magisterial," and suggested that Rawls' use of the techniques of analytic philosophy made the book the "most formidable" defense of the social contract tradition to date.
John Rawls - Wikipedia
He credited Rawls with showing that the widespread claim that "systematic moral and political philosophy are dead" is mistaken, and with providing a "bold and rigorous" account of "the principles to which our public life is committed. However, he criticized Rawls for "looseness in his understanding of some fundamental political concepts. A Theory of Justice received criticism from several philosophers. Robert Nozick criticized Rawls' account of distributive justice in his defense of libertarianism , Anarchy, State, and Utopia Michael Sandel criticized Rawls in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice , arguing that Rawls encourages people to think about justice while divorced from the values and aspirations that define who they are as persons and that allow people to determine what justice is.
The economist Amartya Sen has raised concerns over Rawls' emphasis on primary social goods, arguing in Inequality Reexamined that we should attend not only to the distribution of primary goods, but also how effectively people are able to use those goods to pursue their ends. He credits Rawls for revitalizing the interest in the ideas of what justice means and the stress put on fairness, objectivity, equality of opportunity, removal of poverty, and freedom. However, Sen, as part of his general critique of the contractarian tradition, states that ideas about a perfectly just world do not help redress actual existing inequality.
Sen faults Rawls for an over-emphasis on institutions as guarantors of justice not considering the effects of human behaviour on the institutions' ability to maintain a just society. Sen believes Rawls understates the difficulty in getting everyone in society to adhere to the norms of a just society. He also claims that Rawls' position that there be only one possible outcome of the reflective equilibrium behind the veil of ignorance is misguided. In contrast to Rawls, Sen believes that multiple conflicting, yet just principles may arise and that this undermines the multi-step processes that Rawls laid out as leading to a perfectly just society.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Dewey Decimal. Main article: Original position. Rawls explained: from fairness to utopia. Open Court. Real world justice: grounds, principles, human rights, and social institutions. Dordrecht: Springer.
A theory of justice. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Giants and Dwarfs: Essays Some have greater authority and wealth, and therefore greater means to achieve their aims. That is why we need the difference principle along with the principle of equal basic liberties. These comparisons are made in terms of expectations of primary social goods. In fact, I define these expectations simply as the index of these goods which a representative individual can look forward to. An immediate question is whether such indexing of primary social goods is actually possible. Let us try to do this a little more precisely.
In other words, according to the Rawlsian social welfare function, one distribution is better than another distribution if and only if the expectations measured in terms of the index of primary social goods one enjoys—which, in our present case, is simply the amount of wealth one enjoys—of the least advantaged person under the former distribution is greater than that of the least advantaged person under the latter distribution.
Note how utilitarianism and the difference principle use different information when deciding the specific distribution for a given distributional problem. Utilitarianism is concerned with the welfare levels different distributions of wealth generate for each individual and tries to choose the distribution that maximizes the total sum of individual welfare in society. In contrast, the difference principle is concerned with the amount of primary social goods —i. Thus the difference principle is to apply to citizens engaged in social cooperation; if the principle fails for this case, it would seem to fail in general.
The most important implication of the normality assumption for our current discussion is that we need not consider issues of disabled or handicapped people who are generally poor translators of wealth-to-welfare. See Fig. The utility function is strictly increasing in primary social goods. There exists a reference point G in the above figure below which and above which the slope and curvature of the utility function abruptly changes. The slope below the reference point is linear and steeper than the slope above the reference point.
The slope above the reference point is strictly concave and flatter than the slope below the reference point. To be clear, the main purpose of introducing such a utility function at that point of the book was to show how utilitarianism, once individual utility functions are suitably characterized, can support justice as fairness in an overlapping consensus Rawls , — This explains why the parties must reject alternatives that fail to guarantee the basic equal liberties. Rawls , What Rawls wanted to argue was that once individual utility functions are suitably characterized as depicted in Fig.
For the remainder of the paper, I will try to demonstrate why this argument is flawed. We consider two representative groups living in our society. Some people may criticize that this does not accurately represent the type of situation that Rawls envisions, as it simply assumes that a fixed amount of social wealth is given exogenously.
The reason why this may be problematic is because assuming a fixed amount of social wealth may seem to get rid of incentive issues, which Rawls deemed important in justifying his difference principle. However, one must clearly understand the specific context in which Rawls relied on incentive issues to justify his difference principle. Rawls relied on incentive issues to argue for the superiority of the difference principle over strict egalitarianism under which social wealth is distributed in a perfectly equal manner not utilitarianism.
The main point is that incentives considerations would favor the difference principle when the difference principle is compared to strict egalitarianism; however, incentives considerations will not favor the difference principle when it is compared to utilitarianism. A utilitarian society will generally provide an even better prospect for the entrepreneurs than a society regulated by the difference principle, as the upper bound of economic benefits that the entrepreneurs is allowed to accumulate would not be constrained by any considerations to benefit the least advantaged group in their society.
So, incentive considerations would give reasons to support utilitarianism rather than the difference principle. So, focusing on societies that have a fixed amount of wealth to distribute actually takes away one advantage that utilitarianism has over the difference principle; namely, incentive considerations. In this sense, our model is actually handicapping utilitarianism. What would be surprising is if utilitarianism turned out to be superior over the difference principle even when incentive issues disfavoring the difference principle is nullified. We assume that both utility functions conform to all of the general characteristics [i.
This presupposes that, even within the normal range, there exist people who are advantaged or disadvantaged relative to other people.
This completes the setup of our model. Before moving on, I would like to point out that focusing on a simple model of a society consisting of two representative groups is an exercise that Rawls himself invokes quite frequently throughout his works. Let us now derive the specific distributional consequences of utilitarianism and justice as fairness more specifically, the difference principle of our model.
Before doing this, I would like to emphasize that the only reason why we are considering a liberal democratic society that meets the principle of equal basic liberties i. Such an assumption is not meant to restrict the distributional consequences of utilitarianism. All the distributional results of utilitarianism that we will soon derive will remain intact even if we dropped this assumption. Here is our first result that will be used frequently throughout our analysis.
Proposition 1 shows that the difference principle will always divide social wealth into half and distribute it equally to each individual. With this in mind, let us consider the distributional consequences of utilitarianism under different levels of social wealth. Of course, Rawls remained vague on what he exactly meant by the condition of moderate scarcity.
Proposition 2 is important. Yet, compare the distributional consequences of utilitarianism and the difference principle.
Utilitarianism prescribes a distribution that secures the equal worth of basic rights and liberties for everybody. In other words, the distribution that the difference principle prescribes in our two group society under conditions of moderate scarcity goes against the very purpose of why the difference principle was initially proposed and designed in the first place; namely, to protect the least advantaged group in society. For a devoted Rawlisan, the result seems to be something that would be hard to swallow.
By focusing solely on maximizing the size of the bundle of primary social goods i. The primary goods approach seems to take little note of the diversity of human beings. But, in fact, people seem to have very different needs varying with health, longevity, climatic conditions, location, work conditions, temperament, and even body size affecting food and clothing requirements.