Talons Philosophy

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Harvard Justice: John Rawls & What is a Fair Start?

The first statement of the two principles reads as follows:

First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.

Second: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all…

John Rawls Theory of Justice (1971)

Today we’ll be looking at John Rawls’ Theory of Justice and reflecting upon how this theory informs discussions we’ve been having thus far in the unit, as well as how it adds to (or undercuts) previous theories of justice and morality put forth by John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant.

A few questions to spark our thinking:

  • First of all, what are your impressions of Rawls’ theory next to concepts of Utilitarianism and/or notions of the Categorical Imperative?
  • Second, do you agree that everyone should have the same basic liberties, whether they are a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor, part of the minority or part of the majority? And if you do, what basic liberties should everyone have?
  • And third, how do you see Rawls’ theory applying to the discussions we have had around systemic oppression in the last week or so? What insights might the theory offer for those looking to combat a misogynistic or racially discriminating culture? Are there other groups or conditions to which Rawls’ insights may oppose?

Those of you who are currently (or have in the past) studied economics may have unique insights into how Rawls’ theory works (or doesn’t) within our modern capitalist economies. What do the prevailing theories of modern economics make of a system guided by Rawls’ principles? Are these systems of thought congruent?

 

4 Responses to Harvard Justice: John Rawls & What is a Fair Start?

  1. ktay says:

    First of all, what are your impressions of Rawls’ theory next to concepts of Utilitarianism and/or notions of the Categorical Imperative?

    My impression of Rawl’s theory is that it provides insight and provokes thoughts by lowering everyone to a common base level. When compared to Utilitarianism, it seems to disagree, because it seeks to provide equality and happiness for all, rather than the greatest number. It is admittedly more idealistic, but very noble in its aims; it definitely has more appeal to the masses (including the lowly me). When examining Rawl’s theory and the Categorical Imperative together, it becomes apparent that these two theories hail from the same ideological background of respecting the inherent dignity of human beings; they both seek to uphold all human beings to the same moral standard.

    Second, do you agree that everyone should have the same basic liberties, whether they are a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor, part of the minority or part of the majority? And if you do, what basic liberties should everyone have?

    I agree with this statement, because by giving everyone the same basic liberties, many types of discrimination and oppression will be eliminated. Everyone should have the basic liberties or rights to food, water, education, a standardized basic economic start, equal opportunities, free speech, freedom of thought, a safe environment, and fair treatment under the law.

    And third, how do you see Rawls’ theory applying to the discussions we have had around systemic oppression in the last week or so? What insights might the theory offer for those looking to combat a misogynistic or racially discriminating culture? Are there other groups or conditions to which Rawls’ insights may oppose?

    Rawl’s theory would be very relevant to our discussions about systemic oppression, because it would drastically eliminate it. This theory would offer insights to those looking to combat discriminatory culture, by offering them a common starting point. The best way to create ways to eliminate discrimination is to take away all the racial and circumstantial trappings and to force a person to make decisions that would benefit everyone, no matter what circumstances they are born into.

    Groups and conditions that would oppose Rawl’s insights are the elites, the affluent, those with economic and/or political influence, and those who actively support discrimination and oppression because they stand to benefit or gain advantage from it.

     
  2. alexr27 says:

    Hey could you write a post on political philosophy?

     
  3. alexr27 says:

    *Replace “Hey” with “Mr. Jackson”.

     

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