In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By Chiyedza
Words 2185
Pages 9
© Michael Lacewing

Ra wls a nd No zick on jus tic e
John Rawls’ theory of distributive justice (A Theory of Justice) is based on the idea that society is a system of cooperation for mutual advantage between individuals. As such, it is marked by both conflicts between differing individual interests and an identity of shared interests. Principles of justice should ‘define the appropriate distribution of the benefits and burdens of social co-operation’. (p. 4) Justice is the most important political value and applies to the ‘basic institutions of society’ – the political constitution and the institutions that regulate the market, property, family, freedom, and so on – because it is intimately connected to what society is and what it is for. If society is a matter of cooperation between equals for mutual advantage, the conditions for this cooperation need to be defended and any inequalities in social positions must be justified. And so the principles of justice, Rawls thinks, must be ‘the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association’ (p. 11). Justice, then, is fairness.
What are the terms of the ‘social contract’? What principles of justice would we agree to in this situation? For our agreement to secure a fair, impartial procedure, we need to eliminate any possible bias towards, say, the rich or the poor, or the religious or the atheist. So, argues Rawls, assume that we are to agree on these principles without knowing what our position in society will be or what our idea of the good is. The point of this ‘veil of ignorance’ is to ensure that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social…...

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