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Liberal Equality 1.docx

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Western University
Philosophy 2801F/G

LIBERAL EQUALITY RAWLS PROJECT  There are limits to the way individuals can be legitimately sacrificed for the benefit of others  To treat people as equals we must protect them in their possession of certain rights and liberties  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 a little more than a series of anecdotes based on particular intuitions about particular issues  Intuitionism is an unsatisfying alternative to utilitarianism  Having two features – they consist of a plurality of first principles which may conflict to give contrary directives in particular types of cases and second they include no explicit method, not priority rules for weighing these principles against one another  Rawls sets himself to develop a systematic political theory that structures our different intuitions  We cannot take for granted that there must be a complete derivation of our judgements of social justice from recognizable ethical principles  The only way therefore to dispute intuitionism is to set forth the recognisably 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 and uneqla 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  This general conception is not yet a full theory of justice for the various goods being distributed according to that principle may conflict  We need a system of priority amongst the different elements  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  Second principle – social and economic inequalities are to barranged so that they are both – to the greatest benefit of the least advantage and attached to offices and positions open ot all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity  First priority rules (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 (efficiency and welfare) – the 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  An inequality is only allowed if it benefits the least well off  Difference principles – governing the distribution of economic resources  The assumption that civil and political rights should have priority is widely shared in our society  He 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  Outcome of a hypothetical social contract  Original position has a rational interest in adopting Rawlsian principles for the governing of social cooperation INTUITIVE EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY ARGUMENT  While 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 societies resources  The ideology of equal opportunity seems fair to many people – it ensures that peoples fate is determined by their choices rather than their circumstances  Our fate should not be privileged or disadvantage by such morally arbitrary factors as the racial or ethnic group we were born into  Success or failure will be the result of our own choices and efforts  It is fair for individuals to have unequal shares of social goods if those inequalities are earned and deserved by the individual  The base of the prevailing view is that peoples fate should be determined by their choices by the decisions they make about how to lead their lives – not by the circumstances which they happen to find themselves in  Only recognizes differences in social circumstances while ignoring differences in natural talents – this is an arbitrary limit on the application of its own central intuition  No one deserves to benefit from their natural talents but it is not unfair to allow such benefits when they work to the advantage of those who were less fortunate in the natural lottery and this is precisely what the difference principle says  The prevailing view of equality of opportunity is unstable and we should recognize that our place in the distribution of natural talents is morally arbitrary  The difference principle says that all inequalities must work to the benefit of the least well off  This argument explain why the difference principle applies to all inequalities rather than just to those inequalities which stem from morally arbitrary factors THE SOCIAL CONTRACT ARGUMENT  Social contract arguments thought to be weak because they seem to rely on very implausible assumptions they ask us to imagine a state of nature before there is any political authority  Contracts only create obligations if they are actually agreed to. We can say that a certain agreement is he contract that people would have signed in some state of nature and so is a hypothetical contract  Thus the idea of a social contract seems either historically absurd if it is based on actual agreement
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