1. Summarise Rawls’ view on “Original Position”
In Theory of Justice, John Rawls says: “In working out the conception of justice as fairness one main task clearly is to determine which principles of justice would be chosen in the original position. To do this we must describe this situation in some detail and formulate with care the problem of choice which it presents.” In John Rawls’ social contract account of justice, “justice as fairness,” in A Theory of Justice, the original position is a central feature. The original point is set to be adopted in the way we reason about the fundamental principles of justice, and need to be fair and an impartial view thereof. Once we take up this point of view, we step into the role of free and equal persons who all agree and commit themselves to certain principles of political and social justice. “The veil of ignorance” is the main distinguishing feature and it insures impartial judgement by depriving the parties of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and historical and social circumstances. The fundamental interests they have will be known, as well as general facts about biology, psychology, economics and other natural and social sciences.
The parties in the original position will be assigned to choose the conception of justice that best motivates their interests in established conditions that help them pursue their fundamental interests and goals in the list of alternatives of main ideas of justice, which is taken from the tradition of social and political philosophy. The most rational choice for everyone in the original position, says Rawls, is one of the two principles of justice. It is guaranteed, in the first principle, which basic liberties and rights are needed to secure the fundamental interests of equal and free citizens and to follow a “wide range of conceptions of the good.” In the second principle, fair equality of educational and employment opportunities are provided, which enables everyone to compete fairly for powers and prerogatives of office, and it secures a guaranteed minimum of the all-purpose means (such as income and wealth) for everyone, that are needed to pursue their interests and for them to keep up their self-respect as free and equal citizens. What sets Rawls apart from the other theorists is that the judgement is not represented by one person, but socially and as a general agreement by adult members of a society. Thus, the point of view on justice is represented as a “general social agreement.” 408 words.
2. Write a brief critique on this view – do you think you would have chosen the same principles that Rawls claims will be picked out in a position of equal liberty in the ‘original position’? Rawls is very adamant that personal characteristics of an individual should not be factored into their judgements of justice, neither their social or historical circumstances. Robert Nozick argues that having the original position as a starting point is just, and anything that is unequal to others that is derived from this distribution by means of free exchange is equally just, then to re-distribute tax is an infringement on the people’s liberty. Personally, I see John Rawls’s point in his theory. If it does not matter whether you are black or white, where you come from, whether you prefer sunny days from rainy days or the circumstances you like to work in, but everyone has the same basic knowledge of natural and social sciences, then all will be equal. The only problem is, and it’s a big problem unfortunately, that these characteristics and circumstances do matter. They aren’t supposed to, but people do look at these aspects of a person when judging them. These characteristics and circumstances also set each of us apart, because they influence the way we see or judge other things in life, such as economic happenings or even the way of life. Rawls has a good theory, it just is not very realistic in the current state of the country and it’s communities.