A Theory Of Justice Presented By John Rawls

1820 words - 7 pages

In A Theory of Justice John Rawls presents his argument for justice and inequality. Rawls theorizes that in the original position, a hypothetical state where people reason without bias, they would agree to live in a society based on two principles of justice (Rawls 1971, 4). These two principles of justice are named the first and second principles. The first is the equal rights and liberties principle. The second is a combination of the difference principle and the fair equality of opportunity principle, or FEOP (Rawls 1971, 53). Rawls argues that inequality will always be inevitable in any society (Rawls 1971, 7). For example, there will always be a varied distribution of social and economic advantages. Some people will be wealthier than others and some will hold places of greater importance in society. Rawls’s argument is that to ensure the stability of society the two principles of justice are needed to govern the assignment of rights and regulate the inequality (Rawls 1971, 53). Any infringement of an individuals rights or inequality outside the parameters of the principles of justice are unjust.
In order to understand Rawls, one has to understand the theoretical concept of the original position. It lays the groundwork for Rawls’s argument by providing a foundation for society. Calling it a state where people reason without bias is a very general definition that does not at all fully explain all of the different aspects of the original position. The original position, according to Rawls, has to do with a social contract (Rawls 1971, 11). People agree to rules in society that are pursuant to their own general well being. However, they decide on these rules behind what Rawls calls a veil of ignorance. Behind this veil of ignorance, individuals are not aware of their identity. They are oblivious to things like race, gender, or level of intelligence. Furthermore, they have no concept of social standing or economic standing. The individuals are just capable of reasoning and possess the goal of creating a just society (Rawls 1971, 17). The purpose of the veil is to allow those in the original position to agree on rules pertaining to their own mutual interests. Rawls thinks that behind the veil of ignorance, free of bias with rational thought, the individuals would agree to a society governed by his two principles of justice (Rawls 1971, 53). Individuals would agree to these principles because it would be the only way to ensure a fair initial status quo in society (Rawls 1971, 53). This is important because it allows for justified inequalities later that will be regulated instead of unjust inequalities. No one would want to make things unequal from the start because they have no way of knowing their actual place in society behind the veil (Rawls 1971, 11). For example, if someone suggested that all UCR students get free tuition at the cost of students at other universities footing the bill, it would be within the individuals best interest to...

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