John Rawls Theory of Societal Justice

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 386
  • Published : May 30, 2012
Open Document
Text Preview
Have you ever wondered what would be required in order to create a just society? Let us think from the perspective of societal ground zero. We have not been in existence for the past few thousand years. We have no ancestors to direct us, no rules to follow, and no experience to guide us. Imagine that we have not even come to be yet. Consider for a moment that society has yet to be established. Assume there are hypothetical homunculi with the sole task of devising the goals, the guiding light, for society. How would societal goals be designed so they are fair and just for all? In what follows, I will attempt to portray the philosophy of John Rawls with regard to the theory of societal justice. My aim is convey Rawls’ conception of justice. I will discuss his original position of equality and how the essential veil of ignorance collaborates with the original position to arrive at a societal ground zero. I will also address the two principles that Rawls believe would emerge from the original position to guide a just society. Rawls aspires to investigate and present a conception of justice. He believes that, in order to create a just society, we must begin in a hypothetical place with no predetermined conceptions of social or economic status. No person would know his place in society, or what social or economic class he fits into. No one would be aware of his own intelligence or abilities. Further still, no person would know what assets or disadvantages were distributed to him by chance, generation, or inheritance. This hypothetical position of unknowing would create an “original position of equality” (Rawls, p. 498). From this original position, everyone is equal in all conceivable societal and economic terms. In this initial position of equality, there would be totally free, completely rational homunculi that are interested in fostering their own interests. Rawls believes the free, rational, and self-interested homunculi in this hypothetical initial position of equality would form an original agreement. The object of this original agreement would be to arrive at a set of guiding principles to serve as a template for a just society. The guiding principles would dictate all further agreements among people in the society. The principles would stipulate how social cooperation is formed and sustained. These principles would also regulate the types of government that could be instituted. Rawls refers to this regard of the guiding principles of justice as “justice as fairness” (Rawls, p. 498). In this original position of equal liberty, thinking of justice as fairness, the homunculi would collaborate to conceive a set of principles of justice to guide their society. Rawls also insists that the principles of justice must be decided upon through a “veil of ignorance” (Rawls, p. 498). This means the homunculi do not know where they would end up in society. They do not know their eventual social or economic class; nor do they know what fortunes, or lack thereof, lie ahead. They are completely unaware of quantitative or qualitative characteristics of inheritance. They have no idea of what their positions in society would be. One homunculus may turn out to be a doctor with seemingly endless assets, and another may end up as a homeless person scavenging for food to survive. With this blindness of future stance in society, Rawls believes the homunculi in the original position would agree to principles of justice that are fair for all. The homunculi, in an original position of equality, through a veil of ignorance, would want to create a set of guiding principles of justice for society. Rawls believe two specific principles would materialize that would create a fair and beneficial society for all. The first principle would uphold equality in the allocation of basic rights and duties. The second principle would insist that inequalities are only just if they consequent in benefits for everyone, especially the least-privileged. According to...
tracking img