A Critical Discussion of the Theory of Justice by John Rawls

Topics: John Rawls, Political philosophy, A Theory of Justice Pages: 5 (1569 words) Published: September 3, 2013
Department: Program: Course: Course Code: Assignment Number: Assignment Title: Lecturer: Date: Student: Registration Number: Mode of Study: Philosophy Bachelor of Accounting and Finance Business Ethics and Corporate Governance BAC 223 (One) An essay on the Theory of justice by John Rawls Mr. F D Bisika 7th March 2013 Steve Tseka – third year A-BAF/2013/1/45 Distance learning

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Critical discussion on the central features of John Rawls’ Theory of Justice John Rawls is an American philosopher who was born in 1921 and died in the year 2002. In His books, Theory of Justice and Justice and fairness published in 1971 and 1958 respectively, Rawls is noted for being a social contract theorist in that he believes that our obligations merely arise from a form of contract that we enter into. Rawls begins by addressing two concepts, justice and fairness, which are seemingly different, but do share a common feature which is fundamental to both of them: the concept of mutual agreement. That is, when citizens are free to act and agree as a matter of social cooperation according to the conditions that are reasonably acceptable by all parties involved. The difference is that justice is something which one has no option as to whether they participate or not while fairness in the other hand, allows one to determine whether or not they will engage in the practice. Justice may be termed as not all-inclusive as it eliminates the subjective distinctions based on one’s ability to do the job like race, ethnicity, sex and religion among others and along with that, the removal of particular social practices which might restrict one’s opportunities to enter into various offices. Justice is very difficult to be practiced in the communities and villages but can be best applied or practiced in institutions Principles drawn by John Rawls from the concept mutual agreement The first principle which Rawls draws from the concept of mutual agreement is that of equal liberty or in simpler terms, according to biblical golden rule which says do unto others what you would want them to do for you or love your neighbor as you love yourself. However, the concept of rights that is expressed by Rawls is a negative conception where only one person has the duty respect the rights of another, but not necessarily having to provide for them. The second principle that Rawls extracts is that of difference. He says that, while subjective differences are largely irrelevant under the principle of equal liberty, there may be relevant differences between people. Rawls compares this to positions in baseball (such as those of batter, catcher, umpire, et cetera) and in our Malawian Scenario we can say the differences between presidents, cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament e.t.c. For the second principle, if an Page 2 of 5

inequality is deemed to be beneficial to all people, and is not based on subjective differences, then it is acceptable so long as the person who is departing from the principle of equal liberty can justify it. Rawls, having laid out the two principles of justice, He came up with ways to justify them employing a thought experiment regarding a society where practices are already formed and intact. He begins with the assumption that these people are mutually self-interested and their continued adherence to the practices is based on the advantage it provides for them. The second assumption is that these people are fairly rational and that they know their goals and what they are willing to give in order to attain their goals, as well as the ability to avoid the temptation of immediate gains for more long term goals. Accompanying this is the limitation that the definition of rationality should include in it the idea that one would not be dissatisfied with the difference if it was achieved through justice. The final assumption made by Rawls is that people are similar, or equal, in their needs, interests and capacities and power so that...

References: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1971); abbreviated TJ.
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Harvard University Press, 2001); abbreviated JF Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford University Press); abbreviated DF Darrel Moellendorf, Cosmopolitan Justice (Westview Press, 2002); abbreviated CJ Milton Friedman – Freedom vs. Fairness
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