Philosophy 2801F/G Chapter Notes -Justice As Fairness, Social Contract, John Rawls

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Published on 25 Jul 2012
School
Western University
Department
Philosophy
Course
Philosophy 2801F/G
Professor
READINGS WEEK 3 CHAPTER 3
LIBERAL EQUALITY
INTUITIONISM AND UTILITARIANISM
Limits to the way individuals can be legitimately sacrificed for the benefit of others
Treat people as equals we must protect them in their possession of certain rights and
liberties
Rawls, political theory was caught between two extremes: utilitarianism on the one side
and an incoherent jumble of ideas and principles on the other
Second option intuitionism which is little more than a series of anecdotes based on
particular intuitions about particular issues
Unsatisfying alternative to utilitarianism
Have two features:
1. They consist of a plurality of first principles which may conflict to give contrary
directives in particular types of cases
2. They include no explicit method, no priority rules for weighing those principles
against one another
Rawls sets himself to develop a systematic political theory that structures our different
institutions
We cannot take for granted that there must be a complete derivation of our judgments
of social justice from recognizable ethical principles
The only way therefore to dispute intuitionism is to set forth the recognisability ethical
criteria that account for the weights which, in our considered judgments we think
appropriate to give to the plurality of principles
PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE
General conception of justice consists of one central idea: all social primary goods
liberty and opportunity, income and wealth and the bases of self respect are to be
distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the
advantage of the least favored
We treat people as equals not by removing all inequalities but only those which
disadvantage someone
Inequalities are allowed if they improve my initially equal share, but are not allowed if,
as in utilitarianism they invade my fair share
Giving the less well off a kind of veto over inequalities
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However, this general conception is not yet a full theory of justice for the various goods
being distributed according to that principle may conflict
Need a system of priority amongst the different elements
o First Principle; each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total
system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all
o Second Principle; social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that
they are both
- To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and
- Attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair
equality of opportunity
First priority Rule (Liberty): the principles of justice are to be ranked in lexical order and
therefore liberty can be restricted only for the sake of liberty
Second Priority Rule (Justice over Efficiency or Welfare): this second principle of justice
is lexically prior to the principle of efficiency and to that of maximizing the sum of
advantages and fair opportunity is prior to the difference principle
These principles form the special conception of justice
Equal liberties take precedence over equal opportunity which takes precedence over
equal resources
Inequality is only allowed if it benefits the least well off
Difference principle governing the distribution of economic resources
Assumption that civil and political rights should have priority is widely shared in our
society
Argues that his theory better fits our considered intuitions concerning justice and that it
gives a better spelling out of the very ideals of fairness that the prevailing ideology
appeals to
Rawls argues that his principles of justice are superior because they are the outcome of
a hypothetical social contract
Each person calls the original position has a rational interest in adopting Rawlsian
principals for the governing of social cooperation
INTUITIVE EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY ARGUMENT
Rawls also requires equality of opportunity in allotting positions, he denies that the
people who fill the positions are thereby entitled to a greater share of society’s
resources
Ideology of equal opportunity seems fair ensures that people’s fate is determined by
the choices rather than their circumstances
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Document Summary

Limits to the way individuals can be legitimately sacrificed for the benefit of others. Treat people as equals we must protect them in their possession of certain rights and liberties. Rawls, political theory was caught between two extremes: utilitarianism on the one side and an incoherent jumble of ideas and principles on the other. Second option intuitionism which is little more than a series of anecdotes based on particular intuitions about particular issues. Rawls sets himself to develop a systematic political theory that structures our different institutions. We cannot take for granted that there must be a complete derivation of our judgments of social justice from recognizable ethical principles. The only way therefore to dispute intuitionism is to set forth the recognisability ethical criteria that account for the weights which, in our considered judgments we think appropriate to give to the plurality of principles. We treat people as equals not by removing all inequalities but only those which disadvantage someone.

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