Phil 105 Brandon Yee
Study Questions 7:
1. What does Rawls mean in saying "although a society is a cooperative venture for mutual
advantage, it is typically marked by conflict as well as by an identity of interests"?
People have an identity of interests in the way that they know social cooperation makes possible a
better life for all than if everyone were to live solely for his or her own interests. However, there is
always a conflict of interests, as everyone cares about how goods are distributed amongst each other; in
order to pursue their ends, they each prefer a larger to a lesser share. When two people both want a
larger share than the other. We want to work to make this better for everyone but there is a conflict of
interest because it is not possible for both to have more than the other.
2. What is the "original position" referred to on the second page, and how is it related to Rawls's idea
of a social contract? What is the "veil of ignorance"?
The original position is a thought experiment in which individuals select principles that will determine
the basic structure of the society they will live in. This relates to the idea of the social contract because
Rawls believes that individuals in society must unite in order to decide on these set of rules for the basic
structure of society. These choices are made from behind a “veil of ignorance”; reasoning behind a veil
of ignorance is when you imagine no one knows his or her place or role in society (they could be a
student, doctor, janitor, etc.), and from this impartial point of view, individuals decide on what principles
they would agree to. In this way, no individuals would choose a set of principles that would benefit
them as they are because behind the veil of ignorance, no one knows what role they will play; this
results in a fair distribution.
3. What does Rawls mean by characterizing the members of his imagined society as "mutually
disinterested" and "rational"?
Rawls is saying that when making these decisions, each individual should be looking at what would
benefit them, as long as it is behind the veil of ignorance. In this way, not knowing who you will be in
society and trying to maximize what you would have would end up maximizing the overall justice of
society. In the example of cutting cake, it is most fair when both individuals want the bigger piece, but
the one that doesn’t cut the cake gets the first choice of piece. The person cutting the cake doesn’t
know which piece they’re going to get since they do not have the first choice, and therefore, they cut
the cake as even as possible to maximize what they may get. Similarly, the individuals deciding on the
basic rules of society from an impartial point of view do not know which role they will play in society,
and therefore, decide on rules that would be the most beneficial to them/the most fair (whoever they
may be in society).
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4. What are the two principles Rawls takes to characterize justice?
The first principle requires equality in the basic assignment of rights and duties; that is to say, everyone
should have completely equal human rights such as the right of freedom of speech/expression and to
live your life as you choose. We would choose that way because liberty is so important to us because
we wouldn’t want to be the person with less liberty. The second principle, however, states that social
and economic inequalities are considered just only if they benefit everyone; and in particular, if they
benefit the least well-off persons in society. An example of social/economic inequalities is the
distribution of money. We accept this inequality because it results in benefits for everyone. It makes
sense for some people to have certain jobs and salaries and not others. An example of when
social/economic inequalities are justified is for doctors to make more money than other occupations
such as janitors and secretaries. This benefits everyone because doctors go through the extensive
training to treat patients when they are sick or injured (therefore providing services for everyone,
including the least well-off person); but if everyone was paid equally, doctors wouldn’t feel the need to
go through the training and work hard to help those that are sick/injured if they do not make any more
than a janitor or any other individual. These 2 principles should be arranged in “lexical” ordering. This is
to say the first principle always comes before the second; therefore, you cannot violate anyone’s liberty
for economic advantage (you cannot follow principle 2 and violate principle 1).
5. What is reflective equilibrium?
Reflective equilibrium is the way we should reason about justice. In reflective equilibrium, we take the
original position and end with some principles. Then we would check how well those principles that
they thought of compare with the principles that we already have (in society). If the principles match
well, then we most likely have the right answer/conclusion; however, if the principles do not match,
there is reason to think that we did not have it right and therefore must go back to change our
principles. Therefore, the train of thought/logic goes back and forth between your discovered principles
and the principles you live by until equilibrium is reached (or in other words, until the principles more or
less agree with each other).
6. What does Rawls mean in saying that "utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction
Utilitarianism treats the question of how we should act as a group as the same as the question of how
one person should act as an individual. In other words, utilitarianism focuses on the effects of actions
on the group, or the aggregate, rather than on each and every individual. It apples the kind of decision
making as if the whole group were a single person. It is this way of thinking that justifies slavery, which
must be wrong. From the utilitarian point of view, a violation of the liberty of a few individuals can be
offset and justified by the greater good shared by the majority; therefore, if there’s greater economic
benefit to slavery, then it would be justified according to utilitarianism. Rawls thinks this is a complete
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mistake when thinking about liberty as he believes liberty should be equal for everyone and that it is
never justified to decrease someone’s liberty for social or economic gain/advantage.
7. How does Rawls use his thinking about the imaginary society to try to justify the two principles of
If we didn’t know what role we would play in society, we would endorse the system where equality
would bring the best consequences for everyone (would benefit everyone the most). Rawls explains the
“maxmin rule” of decision making to support his claim. In the maxmin strategy, in terms of resources, it
is always best/most rational to make a decision in which there is no risk of loss (even if the gain isn’t as
great as the other decisions that have a chance of loss). This is because the worst that can happen is
that you still gain, whereas the worst that can happen in the other decisions would result in a loss. We
are most likely to choose an option in which we only stand to gain (even if we stand to gain less).
Study Questions 8:
Nozick Justice and Entitlement
1. What is the entitlement theory? What is a just distribution on the entitlement theory?
The entitlement theory is when one person is entitled to the ownership of control of some goods, land,
property, etc. What matters is not the pattern, but the process by which people came to own what they
do. A person who acquires a holding justly through the acquisition principle is entitled to it; a person
who acquires a holding through a just transfer is entitled to it; no one is entitled to anything in any other
way. What justifies one’s ownership is the chain of past ownerships and if they were justly
2. How does Nozick take liberty to "upset patterns"? What does this mean?
In the example of watching Wilt Chamberlin play basketball, liberty is shown when we pay to see him
play and when he plays to receive the money. This conflicts with the pattern of distribution of resources
(from an egalitarian point of view) since Wilt Chamberlain has/makes a lot more money than anyone
else. However, Nozick says that there nothing wrong with this exchange of money to see him play. If
you haven’t done anything wrong, then the pattern we thought was so important, obviously isn’t so
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3. What is the "Lockean proviso" and how does it function in Nozick's thinking?
According to Locke, you come to own something (that is previously unowned) by mixing your labour
with it and improving it as long as there is “enough and as good” left for others. This functions in
Nozick’s thinking because he is concerned about how things are justly acquired (rather than pattern).
He is more concerned about who came to acquire what they own rather than how much
equality/inequality there is he is not interested in the turnout). For example, if there is an unowned
apple tree, the apples that you pick and mix your labour with (to make apple cider, apple sauce, apple
juice) are rightfully considered to be yours. As well, since there are so many apples, taking some would
not be a problem since there are so many left for others.
Cohen, Where the Action Is: On the Site of Distributive Justice
1. What is the "material incentives" approach to inequality in section II?
The material incentive approach states that in Rawls’s view, talented people will work harder if and only
when they’re paid more (which is what justified the inequality in society). If doctors, for example, were
paid equally as much as teachers, janitors, and secretaries, they wouldn’t bother working hard or going
through the schooling in order to become a doctor if they can just stay at home and make as much
money as everyone else; complete equality in terms of materials would encourage laziness. However,
this material incentives approach, according to Rawls, is justified because those that are paid more (such
as doctors) can benefit/produce goods for everyone.
2. How does Cohen criticize this approach by considering what the "talented" people do and do not
choose to do?
Cohen says either talented people believe in Rawls’s view of the difference principle or not. If they do
not, then the society isn’t really just in the way that Rawls tells it to be. This is because if they do not
believe in Rawls’s view, then the society is not just in a Rawlsian sense because according to Rawls, a
society is just only when the members themselves uphold the principles. Therefore, it must be imagined
that the talented people do agree with the difference principle for Rawls’s system to be correct.
However, Cohen then criticizes this by asking “why would talented people only agree to be productive
with the incentives of personal material gain? Why would not justice itself motivate them?’ What
Cohen is saying is that we could all be better off and there would be less inequality if the talented were
willing to work as hard for equal pay rather than inflated pay. If they endorse/agree with the differene
principle, then they should do what they can to do this (which is contradictory to the use of the material
incentives argument as justification). For example, if CEO’s and doctors were willing to work for less,
we’d all be better off because there’d be less inequality.
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3. How does Cohen criticize the idea that justice only applies to the "basic structures" of society?
Cohen says that in his view, distributive justice concerns not only matters of how much inequality, but
whether that inequality reflects things beyond people’s control (such as luck of circumstances). He says
that justice isn’t just about public institutions, but what individuals choose to do; people that believe in
egalitarianism should be choosing to work harder despite high pay rather than working hard only for the
high pay. On the other hand, Rawls says that justice applies only to the basic structure of society, not of
personal choices (such as whether CEO’s will work harder for the same amount of money or higher pay).
Cohen thinks that it is unjust when patterns of inequality reflect things beyond people’s control (for
example, if all the males are rich, or all the white people are rich, etc.).
Study Questions 9:
Satz, Markets in Women's Reproductive Labor
1. What is the question Satz aims to address? What is the assymetry thesis?
The question Satz aims to address is “should we limit the use of markets in the context of reproductive
labour?” The asymmetry thesis states that there ought to be an asymmetry (difference) between our
treatment of reproductive labor and our treatment of other forms of labor. That is, reproductive labor
is unlike other labor and should not be subject to market norms. For example, reproductive labour
should not be subject to market norms like other services, such as cleaning for money, babysitting, etc.
2. How does Satz argue that the asymmetry thesis cannot be defended by appeal to the special
nature (essentialist thesis) of reproductive labor?
First, she agrees with the asymmetry thesis that reproductive labour is special and different from other
types of work (carrying a baby is different than working at a factory, teaching children, etc.). However,
she does not believe that the asymmetry theory can be defended by the use of essentialism. The
essentialist thesis states that reproductive labour is different from other forms of labour in that:
it involves genetic connections to offspring
parts of the process are involuntary
pregnancy extends of a period of time
restrictive and invasive to a woman’s activities/body.
However, Satz says that some contract pregnancies do not involve genetic connection to the offspring
(when both egg and sperm are put into surrogate); many jobs also have components beyond the
worker’s control, such as an assembly line (worker cannot control the rate of production); some
contracts for work are even longer than the 9 months of pregnancy (ex. 2-year contracts); and non-
reproductive labour may also involve restrictions (ex. athletes can’t do drugs, eat junk food, etc.).
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3. What does Satz think about the idea that contract pregnancy improperly commodifies women's
Commodifying it (turning it into a commodity) improperly alienates a woman from her normal and
justified emotions having to do with pregnancy and childbirth. The normal and justified emotions that
the person may be alienated from is the natural feeling that the woman will have in bonding with the
baby before it’s born. It takes the emotions that should surround this type of activity and replaces them
with a different set of emotions that aren’t the right ones. For example, if you knew that you were
going to become pregnant (due to surrogacy), you will try to change your emotions by trying not to get
attached to the baby and trying to forget about the baby in the future. However, Satz says that not all
women bond with fetuses; in fact, it used to be normal for unwed mothers to give up her baby and an
extreme reaction for the women to be upset when giving the baby away.
4. How does Satz argue that resulting gender inequality is what makes contract pregnancy a problem?
Contract pregnancy results in gender inequality. For example, it may result in unequal treatment of
women (compared to men) in the form of unequal distribution of housework and childcare as well as
women earning less than men in jobs (partially because their opportunities are restricted by the extra
expectations in the home, helping out with domestic duties, child care, etc.). As well, there is also a gap
in earnings between men and women due to the different expectations about women/men’s natural
roles; when we think women’s natural role is to be home taking care of kids, being pregnant, that will
affect our thinking about how we approach hiring, how suitable we think they are for other kinds of
work (conscious and unconscious discrimination of race and sex). The existence of women with a
primary job to have children will reinforce society’s view that that is the kind of work they’re meant for
(create bias). As well, giving someone control over a woman’s body because they are paying for it (to
have the baby), reinforces the sense that the woman is not contributing, but is just carrying the baby (a
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Racisms
1. Why does Appiah think we need to examine the concept of racism more closely?
We need to examine the concept of racism more closely because there are inconsistencies. People use
the concept of racism to complain about something (say when something is bad), and sometimes we
appeal to race when we want to do something that is good (such as solidarity). When Appiah says that
the4 concept of racism seems inconsistent “on the face of it,” he means that they just seem
inconsistent; that sometimes these kinds of distinctions are condemned and sometimes praised.
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2. What is "racialism" and how is it different from racism? What is the difference between extrinsic
racism and intrinsic racism? [note: racialism is a way of understanding the “theoretical content” of
racism so my question was somewhat ill-formed.]
Racialism states that there are heritable characteristics that allow us to divide [members of our species]
into a small set of races so that races share traits and tendencies with one another they don’t share with
others. Racism on the other hand is the belief that one race is superior to another. (Racialism/whether
there are heritable characteristics is a cognitive question; intrinsic and extrinsic racism are a question of
attitudes and behaviours/moral judgments).
Extrinsic racism is a belief that racial essence entails morally relevant qualities and that people of
different races differ in respects that warrant differential treatment. For example, race A is justified in
treating race B differently because race B is cognitively inferior to race A (not just because of skin colour
or hair colour, but of cognition, etc.). Extrinsic racism is the basis on which you justify differential
treatment for reasons that have to do with things external to race itself (ex. How because you’re race B
and I’m race A, but because race B is cognitively inferior). Extrinsic racism is a cognitive mistake because
you’re just believe a bunch of false things about people.
Intrinsic racism is differentiating morally between members of different races because they believe that
each race has a different moral status. For example, for an intrinsic racist, the fact of being the same
race as someone else would give them a reason to prefer them. Intrinsic racists do not care if there are
any other qualities or characteristics about other races, they just distinguish morally between people of
their group and others; no amount of evidence or facts ever change their views (therefore not a
cognitive problem). Intrinsic racists think it is morally appropriate to prefer the members of their group
over the members of another group because that’s just how reality is/works.
Evidence can be used to contradict the views of extrinsic racists (ex. Doing tests to show races have the
same intelligence, etc.). On the other hand, no evidence can be successfully used to contradict the
views of intrinsic racists because they don’t care that there are similarities between different races – all
they see and care about is that they