John Rawls' A Theory of Justice - 2063 Words | Essay Example (2022)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Two Principles
  3. Conclusion
  4. Works Cited
We will write a custom Essay on John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice specifically for you for only $16.05 $11/page 807 certified writers online Learn More

Introduction

In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls deliberates on how applying logic in justice principles would solve common problems like societal structures, assigning right duties to individuals and distribution of economic and social advantages to all people in society among other pertinent issues.

Instead of concerning himself with the elusive notion of restoring justice in any unjust society, Rawls’ elementary duty in this book is to come up with principles of justice that would be universally applicable and used in shaping an ideal society.

To some extent, Rawls borrows from Immanuel Kant’s principles of ethics that campaign for principles of nature where an individual has to do to others as he or she would expect them to do to him or her. According to Rawls, principles that would govern a society are principles chosen by individuals if they were in an ‘original position’ and they acted rationally having mutual neutrality.

To expound these principles of justice, Rawls came up with two principles of justice viz. ‘Principle of Equal Liberty” and “Difference Principle.” These principles can be understood better by looking into what Rawls calls “Original Position’ and “Veil of Ignorance.”

(Video) The Carmarthenshire We Want, The Wales We Want - Dr Alan Netherwood

If people acted or chose situations that are ‘ideal’ for them with neutrality, then justice would become fair and this would overcome the infringements presented by theory of utilitarianism. Rawls provides a strong argument for these principles and these principles are good justice principles.

The Two Principles

Before putting forward his two principles of justice, Rawls begins with expounding a hypothetical ‘original position’ that each individual should adopt. At this position, the involved parties would determine precepts of justice from behind a ‘veil of ignorance.”

The ‘veil’ mentioned here would fundamentally subterfuge people from recognizing any facts about themselves hence eliminate the possibility of littering justice with personal issues. Rawls says, “no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like.

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More

I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance” ((Perry, Bratman & Fisher 580). Therefore, in accordance with this argument, there would be no class, talents or any social distinction in the society.

Rawls approaches this issue from hypothetical ‘original point’ to eliminate personal issues that litter justice principles. For long, people have made decisions and passed justice based on personal likes and dislikes without considering the other party. Rawls uses this ‘original position, to attain a neutral ground where individuals would pass judgment that they would wish to be passed on them if they were in the shoes of their subjects.

This is where Rawls agrees with Kantian Ethics that are rooted on natural law of doing to others, as one would wish to be done to him or her. In other words, it is a case of one giving what he or she would expect to get back. Rawls’ original position eliminates personal interests and the eventual justice would be fair to all people in society.

If justice would be decided from the ‘original position’, it would be fair for all. Rawls assumes that parties in the ‘original position’ would agree to his two principles of justice because of the following reasons: firstly, given the fact that these parties do not know their position in society neither do they know their class, there is a probability that they would end up in any class or get any natural asset.

Therefore, due to this uncertainty, these parties would try their best to ensure that the justice passed favors all people regardless of their classes. In any case, an individual in the ‘original position’ would be passing judgment for him/herself.

Considering this, all individuals would pass judgments that favor themselves to ensure that if they find themselves in any class, they would be comfortable in it. Therefore, in a bid to create an ideal situation that would favor the maker of the situation, the overall justice would be fair to all.

It is natural that people want the best things for themselves; therefore, they would come up with structures that are best for themselves and because they do not know where they would be in future, the overall judgment would be ‘best’ for them and ‘fair’ to everyone else. Moreover, Rawls thinks that people in the ‘original position’ would agree to his two principles because these principles gives a standard way out in distributing natural resources, economic and social advantages in societies. However, what are these principles?

We will write a custom Essay on John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More

As aforementioned, Rawls puts forward two principles of justice viz. ‘Principle of Equal Liberty’ and ‘Difference Principle.’ The principle of equal liberty states that, “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others” (Rawls 301).

On the other side the Difference Principle states that, “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that; they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society, and offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity” (Rawls 303).

The principle of equal liberty is egalitarian for it ensures that every person gets equal liberties. In this case, justice would prevail and societies would be structured in a way that would allow mutual understanding. This first principle is absolute in its nature, and to some extent, it echoes libertarianism whereby people will have right to speech. However, Rawls admits that on its own, this first principle may not address all issues facing the society.

Therefore, he throws in the second principle and he is quick to point out that the second principle is important but for it to be realized, the first principle has to be fully applied. The second principle does not substitute the first; on contrary, it complements it by adding some specifications that the first principle may not address.

The second principle as aforementioned is the Difference Principle. Rawls divides this principle into two clauses addressing the same issue of social inequalities.

The first clause calls for distribution economic and social disparities in a way that, “they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society” (Rawls 303). This clause differs from the first principle by eliminating the egalitarian bit of it. It allows some people to have benefits over others; however, these benefits should be of great help to the less fortunate in society.

For instance, talented people in society may have benefits over others; however, they should use these talents appropriately and channel their results back into society for the help of least talented in society. In principle, even though they have their talents, they should not use them for their own good.

The second part of difference principle states that economic and social disparities should be distributed in a way that, “offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity” (Perry, Bratman & Fisher 578). This part is egalitarian just like the first principle for it calls for equality at all levels.

Not sure if you can write a paper on John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More

Rawls explains these principles well by putting sense into them in a way that would compel someone to accept them. For instance, considering difference principle, Rawls provides a sustainable social structure that would eliminate injustice. The difference principle calls for formulation of projects that would allow some people to have more benefits in society than others.

Some people would have more incomes, status and so forth over others. For instance, managers in blue chip companies would earn high salaries than street cleaners. This is logical and acceptable. People with talents in society would be allowed to pursue their talents and have higher social status than others. Rawls is fine with all these possibilities.

Nevertheless, such disparities would only be allowed under certain controlled conditions that would allow better lives for the least advantaged people in society. Rawls puts forward two conditions; one, these disparities would be allowed if their outcome have direct or indirect positive effects in empowering the least advantaged in society.

For instance, if paying a blue chip company manager millions of dollars would benefit the least advantaged, then so be it. As long as the outcome of such disparity is improving livelihood of the poor and less fortunate in society, then it is allowed. Secondly, Rawls indicates that as long as the procedure of accessing high posts in society is free and fair, void of irrelevant criteria and discrimination, then it is all right.

Moreover, the difference principle addresses other ethical theories like the socialist idea, which calls for distribution of responsibilities and benefits based on ability and need respectively. In essence, the least advantaged people in society have more needs whilst those greatly advantaged have the highest responsibilities.

This boils down to merit where skills are rewarded and at this point, Rawls’ principles become good principles of justice. The society has for long promoted courses that would benefit only those who are well off in society leaving the least disadvantaged to groan under poverty and misery. However, Rawls first clause of the second principle of justice eliminates this problem.

People should only change economic and social institutions if only they will benefit all people in society not the well off alone. For instance, there would be a proposal that seeks to allow erection of a nuclear plant in a family neighborhood whereby, the families around the nuclear plant would not benefit; however, the plant would provide well-paying jobs to professionals who are already well off.

Under, Rawls’ principles, this nuclear plant would not come to be; however, in contemporary society, this plant would be introduced regardless of the plight of the neighboring families. This is unfair; it is injustice. In the wake of these facts, Rawls’ principles of justice stand out as a better way out of the quagmire that societies have plunged into.

Rawls’ principles are even better than utilitarianism. According to Perry, Bratman, and Fisher, utilitarianism states that as long as actions promote felicity, they qualify as ‘good’ actions (589). However, Rawls offers a better approach in addressing pleasure and happiness. Utilitarianism has many infringements that violate basic human rights; however, Rawls’ principles allows for equality and at the same time allow individuals to do what they love doing hence become happy.

The difference between the two is what takes precedence over what. While in utilitarianism, the quest to derive felicity and pleasure takes precedence over human rights, Rawls’ principles are the exact opposite. Equality should prevail and this is why Rawls starts by taking people back to the ‘original position.’ After ensuring that equality prevails, Rawls then incorporates the issue of deriving happiness.

In essence, if what an individual is doing does not benefit other people in society, it is wrong whether it brings happiness or not. Rawls’ principles are good because if societies are structured according to his suggestions, then at least everyone will be happy in society because justice would be fair for every body. Otherwise, without adopting these principles, societies would continue to suffer social injustices because social classes and positions have allowed people to pass biased judgments that benefit them alone.

Conclusion

Rawls comes out clearly in his principles of Justice. He starts by referring people to make judgments from an ‘original position’ covered with a ‘veil of ignorance.’ This veil covers people from acknowledging their interests, status, or positions in society.

At this point, people would make judgments and decisions that are fair to everyone because these decision makers do not know where they would belong in future; therefore, they would pass judgments that are ‘best’ for themselves thus making the judgments fair to everyone.

Rawls then gives his two principles. The first one is an egalitarian principle calling for equal distribution of liberties to all people in society. This provision eliminates many injustices while the second principle furnishes what the first does not address adequately.

This second principle allows classes in society only if the outcome of such classes would be for the benefit of the least advantaged in society. Rawls provides a strong argument for these principles and these principles are good justice principles because they address pertinent issues of injustice in society. They are better than utilitarianism for their basic objective is upholding human rights as opposed to utilitarianism’s happiness.

Works Cited

Perry, John, Bratman, Michael, & Fisher, Martin. “Introduction to Philosophy: Classical

and Contemporary Readings.” New York; Oxford University Press, 2006.

Rawls, John. “A Theory of Justice.” Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971.

FAQs

What is John Rawls theory of justice in simple words? ›

That means every person should be treated with fairness and recommends equal basic liberties, equal opportunities to similar individuals, and offering the highest possible benefits to the less advantaged members of society. This theory of justice, as believed by Rawls, helps in the functioning of a just society.

What is John Rawls theory of justice in 500 words? ›

Rawls' first principle of justice states that each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. As per the principle of equal liberty, all the people in the society must be given certain liberties that are basic for human existence.

What is the main point of John Rawls A Theory of Justice? ›

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls argues for a principled reconciliation of liberty and equality that is meant to apply to the basic structure of a well-ordered society.

What is John Rawls theory of justice Class 11? ›

John Rawls: theory of Justice

John Rawls argues that the only way we can arrive at a fair and just rule is if we imagine ourselves to be in a situation in which we have to make decisions about how society should be organised although we do not know which position we would ourselves occupy in that society.

What are the 3 principles of justice? ›

The three principles that our justice system seeks to reflect are: equality, fairness and access. Equality is defined in the dictionary as 'the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.

What important lesson or learning you can gain from Rawl's theory of justice? ›

Rawls addresses justice on the basis of fairness and puts forth that fairness is achieved when each and every individual has access to the services she needs. The important aspect of Rawls's view is that justice can be achieved not by absolute equity but by fairness and justified his claim depending on two principles.

What does Rawls mean by veil of ignorance? ›

Philosopher John Rawls suggests that we should imagine we sit behind a veil of ignorance that keeps us from knowing who we are and identifying with our personal circumstances. By being ignorant of our circumstances, we can more objectively consider how societies should operate.

What is justice and types? ›

The aim of law is the establishment of what is legitimate; provide legal security, and prevention of unjust actions. -Salmond. Thus, Justice has four major dimensions: Social Justice, Economic Justice, Political Justice and Legal Justice. All these forms are totally inter-related and interdependent.

What is the veil of ignorance in ethics? ›

The “veil of ignorance” is a moral reasoning device designed to promote impartial decision making by denying decision makers access to potentially biasing information about who will benefit most or least from the available options.

What is the main idea of justice? ›

A Theory of Justice holds that every individual has an equal right to basic liberties, and that they should have the right to opportunities and an equal chance as other individuals of similar ability.

What are the 2 principles of justice for Rawls? ›

Rawls contends that the most rational choice for the parties in the original position are two principles of justice: The first guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good.

What is the idea of justice? ›

Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves or, in more traditional terms, giving each person his or her due. Justice and fairness are closely related terms that are often today used interchangeably.

What are the three important principles of justice Class 11? ›

(a) Providing free services to the poor and needy can be justified as an act of charity. (b) Providing all citizens with a basic minimum standard of living is one way of ensuring equality of opportunity. (c) Some people are naturally lazy and we should be kind to them.

What is meant by veil of ignorance Class 11? ›

A person under the 'veil of ignorance' is unaware of her/his possible position and status in the society therefore s/he would rationally decide from the point of view of the worst-off. It would be sensible in this situation for everyone to ensure that all resources are available equally to all persons.

What do you mean by moral justice? ›

Justice is derived from a Latin word "jus" meaning right or law. It therefore follows that a just person obeys the law (lawful) and does what is right (morally, ethically). Synonymously, Justice means fairness, that is giving to persons what is due to them.

What are the 4 characteristics of justice? ›

This article points out that there are four different types of justice: distributive (determining who gets what), procedural (determining how fairly people are treated), retributive (based on punishment for wrong-doing) and restorative (which tries to restore relationships to "rightness.") All four of these are ...

Why is it important to have justice? ›

Social justice promotes fairness and equity across many aspects of society. For example, it promotes equal economic, educational and workplace opportunities. It's also important to the safety and security of individuals and communities.

What are examples of legal principles? ›

Examples of these general principles of law are laches, good faith, res judicata, and the impartiality of judges. International tribunals rely on these principles when they cannot find authority in other sources of international law.

How does Rawls justify inequality? ›

Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and (b), they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society. (Rawls 1993, pp.

What is an example of the veil of ignorance? ›

So, for example, the veil of ignorance would lead people to refuse slavery, because even though slavery is very convenient for slave-owners, for slaves, not so much, and since behind the veil of ignorance one would not know whether they would be a slave or a slave-owner, they would refuse slavery.

What is the principle of fairness? ›

In its simplest form, the principle of fairness tells us the following. If a number of people are producing a public good that we benefit from, it is not morally acceptable to free ride on their backs, enjoying the benefits without paying the costs.

What is the major principle behind Rawls theory of justice quizlet? ›

1) Principle of Equal Liberty: Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all.

What is justice example? ›

Behind the concept of justice lies the notion of balance - that people get what is right, fair and appropriate. An example of justice is someone being set free from prison after dna evidence shows they are innocent. Justice includes the notion of upholding the law, as in the work of police, judges and the court.

What is the value of justice? ›

Justice is one of the most important moral values in the spheres of law and politics. Legal and political systems that maintain law and order are desirable, but they cannot accomplish either unless they also achieve justice.

What is a good sentence for justice? ›

He has a good overall sense of justice and fairness. He only wants freedom, justice and equality. There is no justice in this world! We are a minority and must win people round to the justice of our cause.

How can veil of ignorance treat the unfairness in a society? ›

Because people behind the Veil of Ignorance do not know who they will be in this new society, any choice they make in structuring that society could either harm them or benefit them. If they decide men will be superior, for example, they must face the risk that they will be women.

Who has given the concept of veil of ignorance? ›

John Rawls's Veil of Ignorance is probably one of the most influential philosophical ideas of the 20th century. The Veil of Ignorance is a way of working out the basic institutions and structures of a just society .

What is ignorance in human acts? ›

- Ignorance is the lack of knowledge about a subject which can be willfully gained. To remain ignorant might be a personal choice for some and situational matter for others. It influences human action as one acts without proper understanding or knowledge about the ramifications of that action.

Why justice and fairness is important? ›

In a community where people are being treated fair everyone works together, solves problems easily, has fun, cares for one another, feels safe and gets along. That is a way that many people want to live. It should be important to a person to act with fairness. If you do this people will respect and trust you.

What is justice long answer? ›

Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, ...

What is the relationship between justice and law? ›

4 Law and justice. Interconnected with the ideas of law and morality is the notion of justice. Achieving justice is often regarded as the main aim or function of the law – it is the ideal or the ultimate goal towards which the law should strive.

What is the relationship between justice and morality? ›

Justice is about right relation to others as measured against the mores of society, while morality is about right relation to right itself, as measured against your own beliefs. Whether or not justice exists objectively or is entirely a social construct, it has an unmistakable universality.

What is the main idea of Rawls theory of justice quizlet? ›

By "justice as fairness," Rawls means: the ideas and principles of justice are agreed to in an initial situation that is fair. According to Rawls, rights are endowed to every human being, regardless of whether or not her or his society supplies them. Rawls believes in the existence of natural rights.

What are Rawls two principles of justice? ›

Rawls contends that the most rational choice for the parties in the original position are two principles of justice: The first guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good.

What does Rawls mean by veil of ignorance? ›

Philosopher John Rawls suggests that we should imagine we sit behind a veil of ignorance that keeps us from knowing who we are and identifying with our personal circumstances. By being ignorant of our circumstances, we can more objectively consider how societies should operate.

What is the idea of justice? ›

Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves or, in more traditional terms, giving each person his or her due. Justice and fairness are closely related terms that are often today used interchangeably.

What is the first principle that everyone will agree to from Rawls's original position? ›

What is the First Principle of justice chosen in the original position? Give a brief outline of the role of the Liberty Principle. It guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good.

Who gave the concept of veil of ignorance? ›

John Rawls's Veil of Ignorance is probably one of the most influential philosophical ideas of the 20th century. The Veil of Ignorance is a way of working out the basic institutions and structures of a just society .

What is the purpose of Rawls veil of ignorance quizlet? ›

The purpose of the "veil of ignorance" in Rawls's thought experiment is to illustrate what social principles people in society would chose if they had a clear indication of all of the consequences of all of their choices.

What is an example of the veil of ignorance? ›

So, for example, the veil of ignorance would lead people to refuse slavery, because even though slavery is very convenient for slave-owners, for slaves, not so much, and since behind the veil of ignorance one would not know whether they would be a slave or a slave-owner, they would refuse slavery.

What is the difference principle according to John Rawls? ›

John Rawls' alternative distributive principle, which he calls the Difference Principle, is examined next. The Difference Principle permits diverging from strict equality so long as the inequalities in question would make the least advantaged in society materially better off than they would be under strict equality.

What is the principle of fairness? ›

In its simplest form, the principle of fairness tells us the following. If a number of people are producing a public good that we benefit from, it is not morally acceptable to free ride on their backs, enjoying the benefits without paying the costs.

What is the difference between equality and social justice? ›

We can easily conclude the Differences between Equality and Justice as Equality is when each person is seen as equal in the eyes of the law. and Social justice is when each person can exercise their rights within a society.

What is justice example? ›

Behind the concept of justice lies the notion of balance - that people get what is right, fair and appropriate. An example of justice is someone being set free from prison after dna evidence shows they are innocent. Justice includes the notion of upholding the law, as in the work of police, judges and the court.

Why is justice so important? ›

Justice is one of the most important moral values in the spheres of law and politics. Legal and political systems that maintain law and order are desirable, but they cannot accomplish either unless they also achieve justice.

What are the 4 types of justice? ›

This article points out that there are four different types of justice: distributive (determining who gets what), procedural (determining how fairly people are treated), retributive (based on punishment for wrong-doing) and restorative (which tries to restore relationships to "rightness.") All four of these are ...

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Dan Stracke

Last Updated: 11/03/2022

Views: 5711

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dan Stracke

Birthday: 1992-08-25

Address: 2253 Brown Springs, East Alla, OH 38634-0309

Phone: +398735162064

Job: Investor Government Associate

Hobby: Shopping, LARPing, Scrapbooking, Surfing, Slacklining, Dance, Glassblowing

Introduction: My name is Dan Stracke, I am a homely, gleaming, glamorous, inquisitive, homely, gorgeous, light person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.