Nozick and Rawls

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Which is the most appealing Nozick’s entitlement theory or Rawls theory of distributive justice?

The defence of liberal ideologies emerged not long after the Second World War, prior to this there had been little faith in liberal values during the 1920’s and 1930’s, however after the war there appeared to be a renewed defence for liberal thinking ranging across a variety of ideological theories. To the present day these liberal perspectives continue to influence political thinking with regards to rights, equality and freedom. This rapid revival of liberal ideologies highlights the diverse and contradictory parts associated with liberal ideas and so we are left with two very influential theorists in liberal political philosophy yet with very conflicting theories. These theorists are famously known as Robert Nozick and John Rawls. There are a number of diverse views on economic or distributive justice, some claim that goods should be distributed equally or shared based on a principle of need that is to say who needs these goods more. Other views claim goods should be distributed according to labour, merit, and effort which determine who is entitled to them. John Rawls argues that the economy should be designed in such a way that those ‘worse off’ in society should benefit as much as possible, so inequalities would exist but everyone in society benefits from this. Rawl’s therefore approves of more state involvement as this would mean distributing resources by means such as taxation to those in society who justly deserve to receive them. Nozick argues however, that Rawl’s description is not neutral by this he means to discuss distributive justice presumes that resources are readily available in society ready to be justly distributed by the state however realistically in society there are individuals and associations of these individuals in the natural world and what these individuals produce, therefore one should not treat the production of goods and how they are distributed as separate matters they should be addressed together. This essay will assess both theories of Robert Nozick and John Rawl’s and discuss which is the most appealing and why.

The work of John Rawls has received a huge amount of recognition and respect through his writings in ‘Theory of Justice’ (1971). 1 Rawls was a moral and political philosopher who analysed and explained human judgements of injustice and justice. His work offers a guiding principle and a different perspective into human behaviour in society. He examines the nature of individuals and their associations with justice while comparing it to other individuals leading to the overall moral nature of individuals. For Rawls, society is one that is shaped by both peace and conflict of interests, peace because social cooperation offers the opportunity for individuals to live a better life than they would have if they had to live alone. Society is shaped by conflict of interests because every individual has a preference for a larger share from the fruits of cooperation than a smaller one they are more likely to achieve alone. The concern with distributive justice is implemented to compensate the misfortunate in society. Some people are lucky enough to have more than others and it is the responsibility of everyone in society to distribute the goods that arise from the metaphorical lottery that is life as we know it. Rawl’s theory of distributive justice introduces the ‘original position’ associated with Reflective Equilibrium where individuals reflect and revise their beliefs to enquiries whether moral or non moral and to assess what is just. So Rawl’s ‘original position’ is simply a hypothetical thought experiment that encourages one to imagine a scenario where we is unaware of what our position is in society or what our idea of the ‘good’ is before making a decision. Although it could be said that every person in society makes decision based on their positions, Rawl’s idea encourages one to...
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