How does the difference principle make a difference?

Res Publica 16 (3):263-280 (2010)
The paper examines the relationship between the two parts of Rawls’ second principle of justice. More specifically, it explores the ways in which the Difference Principle (DP) may constrain the range of acceptable social arrangements in light of the stated lexical priority of the requirement of fair equality of opportunity (FEO) over the DP. The paper discusses two possibilities. First, it examines the role the DP may play within an institutional scheme that satisfies the requirement of FEO. Second, it discusses the role the principle may play in selecting among different institutional schemes that satisfy FEO. The paper argues that the DP has an important role only if there is a range of institutional arrangements that are equivalent from the point of view of FEO but non-equivalent from the point of view of the DP. Next, it explores the possible sources of the variation among the different FEO-equivalent institutional schemes, and argues that on the most satisfactory reading of the requirement of FEO, there will not be much variation that is relevant from the point of view of the DP. The paper concludes that the role of the Difference Principle is at best very limited in constraining the range of social arrangements that are acceptable from the point of view of justice
Keywords Rawls  difference principle  fair equality of opportunity  lexical priority
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-010-9123-1
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References found in this work BETA
John Rawls (2009/2005). A Theory of Justice. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Philosophy and Rhetoric. Oxford University Press 133-135.

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