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John Rawls - Contemporary Liberalism

UM Flint PHL 101 "The Contemporary Liberal Answer" Presentation

Jeff Kabel

on 27 November 2012

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Transcript of John Rawls - Contemporary Liberalism

2. Social and economic inequalities must satisfy two conditions: John Rawls Contemporary Liberalism Jeff Kabel •John Rawls wished to establish a theory of justice •His theory is based on the "social contract" The "social contract" was popularized by Locke, Kant, and Rousseau Rawls' Social Contract • Does not describe the conditions of entering any specific society •Does not describe establishing any specific government •Does state that the principles of justice are the goal of the original agreement The Principles of Justice • They are the principles that free and rational persons, who are concerned in furthering their own interests, would accept in the initial position of equality as the defining fundamental terms of their association. (in simpler terms, if everyone were free, equal, and wanted to be the best they could, they would accept these principles) •These principles are used to:
•Regulate all further agreements
•Specify which social actions are (un)acceptable
•Specify which forms of government are (un)acceptable •Rawls calls this way of regarding principles “justice as fairness” (Because every person is considered equal in the decision making) Individuals Small Groups Societies Social Rights and Duties • Must decide what is (un)just
•Must establish other basic beliefs •Assign basic rights and duties
•Must decide how to regulate claims against one another
•Must decide what is to be the basic charter of their group • Must decide what is (un)just •Assign basic rights and duties
•Must decide how to regulate claims against one another
•Must decide what is to be the basic charter of their society Those who decide these must be in the "original position" The Original Position (This is comes up repeatedly throughout the remainder of this presentation, so please feel free to ask questions if you do not understand) The original position describes a state in which people know nothing about their place in society, wish to further themselves, and see everybody as equal. •Unaware of their position in society
•Unaware of their class
•Unaware of his fortune
•Unaware of his natural abilities (strength, intelligence, etc.) Those in the original position are: Let us even assume that these people have no conception of "good" Behind this "veil of ignorance", all agreements are fair. •This is because no person or group can become (dis)advantaged because nobody would make a law benefiting any group since they don't know their own position This is why Rawls refers to this as "Justice as Fairness" Since all decisions would be made not favouring any one group, all decisions would be fair. Making a Society with Contemporary Liberalism Basic principles must be decided Constitutions and Legislatures could created and adopted If done correctly, each person could say that they would agree to these terms if they were free and on equal terms These principles will reform and regulate all subsequent and proceeding instiutions All laws would follow the basic principles Members of society could then accept any restrictions as self-imposed This is NOT Utilitarianism Utilitarianism wishes for the greatest good for the most people. Rawls saw how people could confuse the two, so he stated the difference: It is unlikely people who see each other as equal would impose penalties so that other equals can prosper. 1. Everyone will have an equal right to the most basic liberty Rawls believed people would likely decide on principles similar to the following two principles: 1. They are to be of great benefit to everyone, and of the greatest benefit to the least advantaged 2. They are to be attached to positions available to all These principles are ranked in order of precedence: No matter how great a benefit, no basic liberty shall ever be taken away •Political liberty, freedom of speech and assembly, liberty of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, right to hold property, and freedom from arbitrary arrest/seizure are some basic liberties Since people are ignorant of their position, they would not condemn any one group, because they do not know if they are part of that group Thus, people would not vote for something rash (like slavery) because they would not be sure if they would be the ones afflicted by it. Rash decisions would not be made in such a society Rawls suspects people would choose the decisions that had the least possible negative impact. This is known as the maximin rule Rawls describes this rule with the following example Suppose you are about to make one of three decisions, and you calculate three different results of each D1
D3 R1 R2 R3 -$700 $800 $1200 -$800 $700 $1400 $500 $600 $800 Under the maximin rule, you would choose the option with the least amount of possible penalties, in this case, Decision 3 General Conception "All social primary goods -liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect - are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favored"
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