Wednesday, December 13, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

John Rawls (1921 – 2002)


American philosopher, a professor of political philosophy at Harvard University.
Page 1 of 1
John Rawls
To make concrete what [Rawls's] theory regards as justice, compare two of our society's worst-off. The first, a mugger who has never held a job, is vicious when he can get away with it and spends his ill-gotten gains on drugs. The second, a mother of three, has been abandoned by her husband; she earns the minimum wage at a menial job and is trying hard to raise her children well. According to what Rawls calls justice, these two are entitled to the same resources from society simply because they are among the worst-off. The mugger's viciousness and lack of effort and the mother's decency and struggle create no morally relevant difference between them. [¶] Now change the scenario a bit. The mugger continues as before, but the mother's efforts have borne fruit. She has found a better job and is doing well at it. Her family now is moderately secure and comfortable but hardly affluent. On Rawls's view, justice requires taking some of the mother's resources in order to give them to the mugger. [¶] in deeming this blatant injustice just, Rawls repudiates the conception—accepted from the Old Testament to recent times—that justice consists in giving people what they deserve: reward for good conduct and punishment for bad. [...] awls is explicit about his repudiation...
Rawls quotes
Why then in Britain has secularism become seen to be hostile to religion? Because neutrality is too often assumed to require the bleaching out of all traces of faith, excluding religious belief and discourse from public life. But it doesn't, and we can see why by appeal to the notion of public reason, articulated most clearly by the late political philosopher John Rawls. Rawls was quite clear that the religious have no obligation at all to keep their faith entirely to themselves.
"Reasonable comprehensive doctrines, religious or non-religious, may be introduced in public political discussion at any time," he wrote, "provided that in due course proper political reasons – and not reasons given solely by comprehensive doctrines – are presented that are sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are said to support."
Rawls
One who lacks a sense of justice lacks certain fundamental attitudes and capacities included under the notion of humanity. Now the moral feelings are admittedly unpleasant, in some extended sense of unpleasant; but there is no way for us to avoid a liability to them without disfiguring ourselves. This liability is the price of love and trust, of friendship and affection, and of devotion to institutions and traditions from which we have benefited and which serve the general interests of mankind...by understanding what it would be like not to have a sense of justice--that it would be to lack part of our humanity too--we are led to accept our having this sense.




Rawls John quotes
The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.
Rawls John
Rawls challenged the view that utilitarianism, or some variant of social liberalism, was the only way to construct a social order. In A Theory of Justice, published in 1971, he laid out his alternative. Imagine, he postulated, that you have to make a choice about what social order you would want to be born into behind 'a veil of ignorance', in which you don't know beforehand your sex, skin colour, skills or the class of your parents. Your overriding concern would be to ensure that it was fair, because if you drew a short straw you would want to know that, as far as possible, society had structures that would redress the balance.
John Rawls quotes
One main problem in Rawl’s defense of “justice as fairness” is that Rawls believes that no one can deserve his or her advantages or assets in life—it’s all a matter of luck. As he puts it, “No one deserves his greater natural capacity nor merits a more favorable starting point in society.” The reason? Because even a person’s character (i.e., the virtues he or she practices that may provide him with ways of getting ahead of others) “depends in large part upon fortunate family and social circumstances for which he can claim no credit”…
John Rawls
Since the publication of John Rawls’s monumental book A Theory of Justice in 1971, such grand theories of distributive justice have gained momentum and depth. Rawls himself defended an egalitarian position. He articulated it in his famous difference principle, according to which deviations from strict equality may be allowed only if such deviations will work for the benefit of the worst-off. According to Rawls, perfect equality should have been the rule, but rewarding capable people with differential income will create an incentive for them to raise the production of the sum total of goods, which in a system of fair distribution might end up benefiting the people who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Rawls John quotes
To each according to his threat advantage does not count as a principle of justice.
Rawls
Rawls' notion of liberty, however, is the impoverished notion of contemporary liberals, for whom liberty consists in the expressive or lifestyle freedom to say what one wants and have sexual relations with the species of one's choice. So, for example, being subject to a 75 percent tax on one's income or being subject to the seizure of 90 percent of one's peacefully acquired property does not count at all as an abridgment of liberty. Indeed, it is not really clear that chaining the talented and energetic to their desks should, for Rawls, count as an infringement of their liberty as long as these individuals are still permitted to express their views, cast their votes, meet with their chosen sexual partners, and, perhaps, are paroled on weekends to travel to their preferred cultural events. In any case, Rawls does not view anything the modern welfare state does in the name of income redistribution as an abridgment of liberty.
Rawls John
The ultimate merit of Rawls’s work did not lie only in his own theory, but in the extraordinarily broad discussion that it generated. Rawls’s work provided a framework for a flurry of counter-theories, such as G.A. Cohen’s in Rescuing Justice and Equality, which challenged Rawls from the left and advocated a stricter egalitarianism; and Robert Nozick’s sophisticated libertarian response in Anarchy, State, and Utopia; and Michael Walzer’s development, in Spheres of Justice, of a communitarian approach to the problem.
John Rawls
This means society should build what Rawls calls an 'infrastructure of justice' that ensures everyone has access to key primary goods - some reasonable level of income and material wellbeing, opportunity and basic rights and liberties - which allow them to consider they have been given a proper chance to achieve full membership of society. Moreover, the rich must recognise that their incomes can only be allowed to reach the level consistent with ensuring that the position of the poor is the best it could possibly be, so that were the positions to be swapped, the rich could accept their reduced position as fair.




Page 1 of 1


© 2009–2013Quotes Privacy Policy | Contact