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John Rawl

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Jessica Luongo

on 25 February 2014

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Transcript of John Rawl

Strengths and Weaknesses
In our opinion:
His principle's revolve around the rights of each person and how the social and economic positions are to be everyone's advantage and open to all.
: A key problem for Rawls, is he lacks in demonstrating HOW his principles could be universally adopted. Rawls doesn’t just say we can pick a form of governance (democracy), he also presumes we can decide what all the people in that society do (supports a large welfare state)…As social contracts are supposed to have universal support.
Who is John Rawls?
John Rawls was a political and ethical philosopher, who is considered the most significant political philosopher in the 20th century.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1921.
He links together the theories from Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.
He served in WW2, but was then convinced to leave the army after witnessing the drop of the atomic bomb and the destruction of Hiroshima.
Through his studies, Isaiah Berlin, a liberal political theorist, inspired Rawls for the rest of his life.
He worked at Harvard University for 40 years, this is where he also published his
Theory of Justice
(most famous work, 1972).
Writings by Rawls
Rawls writes,
"For us the primary subject of justice is the basic structure of society, or more exactly, the way in which the major social institutions distribute fundamental rights and duties and determine the division of advantages from social cooperation. By major institutions I understand the political constitution and the principal economic and social arrangements. Thus the legal protection of freedom of thought and liberty of conscience, competitive markets, private property in the means of production, and the monogamous family are examples of major social institutions"
(Dick Arneson, 2008).

Social Justice is a primary focus of John Rawls’ work as a theorist. John Rawls believes that the best means to develop a “well-ordered society” is through the focus on “the basic structure of society”. According to Rawls, the structure of a society and its foundations directly affect all aspects of life in that society. He basically develops his idea of an ideal “well ordered society” which is founded upon the concept of “social justice” and relates to “the basic structure of society”. These three concepts
(well-ordered society, social justice, basic structure of society)
are central to the overall body of Rawls work (Audra Jamai White-Stadnik).
"Civil Disobedience"
Civil disobedience
is said to fall between legal protest, revolutionary action, militant protest and organized forcible resistance. Throughout history, acts of civil disobedience famously have helped to force a reassessment of society's moral parameters. The Boston Tea Party, the suffragette movement, the US civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others, to name a couple, are all instances where civil disobedience proved to be an important mechanism for social change.
Concept of "Justice"
John Rawls would define the concept of "justice" by saying that each and every individual should attain equality and that the social and economic positions in society should be to everyone's advantage. The overlapping consensus, Rawls further specifies, is not a consensus in tolerating a certain authority. "For all those who affirm the political conception start from within their own comprehensive view and draw on the religious, philosophical and moral grounds it provides."
Overall Conclusion of John Rawls and his Philosophy
- Based his perception on law on the idea that “justice is fairness”
- He argues that the only way the legal system could achieve justice and guarantee that decisions are unbiased and sensible is if no one in the society knew their own status or the extent of their own wealth. (he argues this in his book, A Theory of Justice)
- This could lead to the justice system functioning behind “a veil of ignorance” which is simply a concept that has been in use by other names for centuries by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant whose work discussed the concept of the social contract.
- For instance, an individual who is accused of a crime and cannot afford a lawyer are provided with a legal-aid certificate, which can be presented to any lawyer who will accept them as a client. (The jury will never be aware that he accused is being defended by a free legal-aid lawyer and therefore is presumed that the jury could not be influenced by the social status of the accused.)

John Rawls (1921-2002)
Rawls: Theory of Justice
Through his published work, Rawls was trying to provide an alternative to utilitarianism. "This allows the rights of some people to be sacrificed for the greater benefit of others, as long as total happiness is increased" (CCCB 216). Rawls did not agree with this concept, which lead to his theory that involves an individual and their freedom. After studying the theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, he realized that individuals will only accept what is
This is why he began to determine what would
be fair.
He made two principles of justice that help oversee society.

Controversial Issues

John Rawls introduces how public reasons could deal with controversial issues. Rawl discusses the troubled question of “abortion”. In the case of abortion, Rawls has argued that "
the equality of women should be seen as equal citizens
" and should dominate both the "ordered reproduction of political society over time" and the "respect for human life".

John Rawls: Two Principles
first principle
of justice states that "each person would have the most extensive system of rights and freedom which can be accorded equally to everyone. These include freedom of speech, conscience, peaceful assembly, as well as democratic rights...The first principle is absolute, and may never be violated, even for the sake of the second principle. However, various basic rights may be traded off against each other for the sake of obtaining the largest possible system of rights" (CCCB 217).

second principle
of justice states that "economic and social inequalities are justified only if they benefit all of society, especially its most disadvantaged members. Furthermore, all economically and socially privileged positions must be open to all people equally" (CCCB 217).

In Rawls
Theory of Justice,
rights and freedoms of an individual surpass the ideas of the common good that may be discerned by society, and must be protected.
John Rawls would have supported the idea of
civil disobedience
. He would support the theory of civil disobedience only if it has helped society for the good and it was a positive social change. A general challenge to Rawls's conception of civil disobedience is that it is overly narrow, and as such it predetermines the conclusion that most acts of civil disobedience are morally justifiable. A further challenge is that Rawls applies his theory of civil disobedience only to the context of a nearly just society, leaving unclear whether a credible conception of either the nature or the justification of civil disobedience could follow the same lines in the context of less just societies (Kimberley Brownlee, 2012).
John Rawls and Positive Law
Positive law
: is a theory that law is collection of rules expressed by the state and that citizens are wanting to obey the law for the good of the state as a whole.

- Positive law is a more sophisticated approach to the concept of law
- Positivists deny the relationship proposed by natural law between law and morals
- Rawls presents more of a compassionate view to human rights
- He believes that the state should distribute everything equally … (unless an unequal distribution would benefit the poorer classes)
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