Nussbaum + Rawls - Political Philosophy

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PHIL 102
Dominic Mc Iver Lopes

A Good Society - Political Philosophy The Theory of Justice ▯ • Individuals are viewed as members of society Nation-State: proposed by Hobbes, an organization of a group of people that is just • Philosophers seek a general pluralist answer that allows for many variants on a just society (a) Very same people may organize justly in different ways (b) Different people may organize justly in different ways (c) Different levels of government (different organization in different countries) • Important variations don’t make it more or less just that others • Just societies look very different to those that are not just Justice as Fairness▯ John Rawls: a Harvard Professor • Wanted to be a priest • Served in infantry in Japan, went to Hiroshima and devoted his life to Political Philosophy ∴ He wrote A Theory of Justice which is a very influential piece in our society today What makes a society just and how do we organize ourselves? • He says many of our most serious conflicts is with ourselves; those who assume or suppose their judgements are consistent and should follow these rules … ↑ 1. Justice should not require you to think about making sacrifices of goods to others; the good is distributed in a way that is fair 2. None of this should be done by negotiating and valuing social interest 3. Justice is fairness elevated to a social level Laws and Institutions▯ Justice: concerns distribution of all goods • Social, political and economic goods (income, wealth and the opportunity to gain such) Basic Social Structure: institutions/main distributors of benefits and burdens of social life • The government, the legal system (laws and courts), the economy (how we set it up [banking, employment laws]), and the family ∴ We share some interests because “social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own effects” (Rawls 4) • We know what we have, comes from cooperation • We know we would be worse off if we didn't work together • The importances of government and society (a) Hobbes: State of nature is "nasty, brutish and short” (b) Social Contracts - John Locke, Rousseau (c) We benefit from social cooperation! But our interests conflict: "persons are not indifferent to how the greater benefits produced by their collaboration are to be distributed, for in order to pursue their ends they each prefer a larger to a lesser share” (Rawls 4) • You want more of your fair share because there are things you want to do with it • There are lots of things we can distribute • We all have our own ends and we devote our resources to achieve these ends, meaning we’re competing with each other Theory of Justice: how to manage / yield public principles that "distribute the benefits and burdens of social cooperation” (Rawls 4) Knowing how to distribute the payoffs and costs of cooperation would be a just society • Good societies balance all of their resources (payoffs and costs and cooperation) Bad societies have no balance in their resources (some get nothing while others get a lot) 1. But what are the principles? • It is hard to understand in a systematic way • Rawls does this in a systematic way 2. How can we know these principles to society without “political bargaining” or using the “calculus of social interests”? All has to come from social groups, trade unions b/c happening for a long time (centuries) • • There has always been “political bargaining”; really bad or really good (Rawls) • Equitable distribution? • A society is just, if its basic social structure complies with principles that would be adopted in the original position: John Rawls Original Position▯ 1. A purely hypothetical “original position” where people are forming a society: • Everyone is equal, no one has an advantage that can manipulate others They are able to make proposals and argue for their acceptance • • They can acknowledge others • They are rational agents: they give reasons for any proposals and they exchange reasons 2. The agents are hidden behind a veil of ignorance, for not knowing: (a) their status in society, natural abilities → biasing factors (b) their race, gender, ethnicity and lifespan (c) their fortune (d) their natural ethnicities (e) their psychological propensities (f) their fundamental values (g) their levels of economic and technological development 3. The agents hidden behind the veil should know: • others are basically rational • the basic facts of social life and human psychology (human connections, virtues and vices of human life) … But most people have less than they want, this creates conflict Moderate Scarcity: conditions where it is only enough to ensure basic life, but can’t ensure everything that everyone wants • People have enough for some minimal level of decency, but not extravagant Two Principles of Justice▯ 1. Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for all: (a) Political liberties (to vote and run for office) (b) Freedom of speech and assembly (c) Freedom of conscience and thought (d) Freedom of the person and the right to hold property Everyone should have this, exercising liberty and not diminished by other people 2. Any social and economic inequalities must satisfy two conditions: a) Be attached to offices and positions open to all, conditions of fair equality of opportunity i. Access to political or any sort of power shouldn’t be determined by wealth b) they benefit the least-advantaged members of society (the difference principle) i. Inequality is fine so long as the people in the bottom are getting better-off #1 take priority over #2a, and then over #2b… Would people accept #2b? Why is the Difference Principle Correct?▯ The Max MinArgument • Suppose we’re in the original position I. First pass: let’s divide the fruits of cooperation equally because we worked together • Individualism is decreasing • It’s not reasonable to expect more than others get • It’s not reasonable to expect less than others get Problem: but there are people who give more and have different weighting in the pie II. Second pass: what if some inequality increases the overall amount of goods • Envy won’t be a factor in the original position • If the smallest share is still bigger than the share in the situation of perfect inequality ∴ just because any social and economic inequalities must benefit the least advantages III. Suppose you get to choose sliced pies but you don’t know which slice you’ll get, which pie do you choose? • Look at the difference between the biggest slices and smallest slices (your status in society) The Max Min Rule: make the choice whose worst possible outcome is better than the worst outcome of all other choices. Sponsor 1 *0.01% Sponsor 2 *90% Sponsor 3 *9.99% Door 1 lose $1000 get $1100 get $1800 Door 2 lose $1100 get $1000 get $2000 Door 3 get $500 get $600 get $700 • According to the Max Min Principle, you should choose Door 3. The Max Min rule isn't always the smartest rule to follow: • If you know the probabilities of each sponsorship • If losing $1000 means nothing/a lot to you • If gaining $1000 means nothing/a lot to you The Max Min is the best rule if you don't know these things • By definition, you don't know these things in the original position! Assume principles (1) and (2a) are rational: 1. Asociety is just if its basic social structure complies with principles that would be adopted in the original position 2. The Difference principle is the max min choice in the original position 3. The max min rule is rational when i. we have no good estimate of probabilities ii. we have little to gain from better outcomes iii. we have a lot to lose from worse outcomes 4. (i) - (iii) hold in the original position 5. So the max min rule is rational in the original position 6. So the difference principle is the rational choice in the original position (From #2 & #5) 7. Agents in the original position choose rationally 8. So the difference principle would be adopted in the original position (From #6 & #7) 9. So a society is just if its basic social structure complies with the two principles Goods▯ Money is an instrumental good, not intrinsic Primary Goods: the principles of justice determine the just distribution of these goods • Things that every rational person is presumed to want, whatever else they may want - The core of everything we want is needed for everything else we want • These will be selected in the original position together with the principles of justice - Going to distribute the goods fairly and justly •
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