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John Rawls

From dKosopedia

John Rawls attempted to adapt the social contract theory of Immanuel Kant to reflect the values of modern America. He rejects what he sees as the country's prevailing political philosophy, utilitarianism, because it allows, in principle, for individuals to be sacrificed to the collective good -- and could potentially be used to defend slavery.

Rawls thinks we should organise our society according to the principles we would all accept in an "original position", where we are unaware of the position we will ultimately occupy in that society. He thinks that under such conditions we will choose to create institutions that protect society's most vulnerable to the greatest extent possible -- because for all we know, we ourselves might be such people. Thus, we will agree to two principles:

1. 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.

2. Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:

(a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, and

(b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

Rawls has been criticised by writers such as Robert Nozick for his belief that it is most rational to minimise social inequalities. Why is it irrational, goes this argument, to simply roll the dice and accept inequalities of wealth, in the hope that we may be one of the lucky ones? We might also believe that rewards accruing to greater talent are deserved, and therefore acceptable. Finally, we might believe that inequalities will be invariably produced by a society of free actors choosing how to distribute their resources, regardless of the original starting position of these actors. In Nozick's example: if we all want to see a basketball star play, and are willing to pay him to do so, how could anyone stop us from doing this, and why should they?

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This page was last modified 03:04, 16 April 2006 by dKosopedia user Allamakee Democrat. Based on work by dKosopedia user(s) Thesleepthief. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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