In this paper, I present a problem for regarding the reflective equilibrium and original position methods as consistent. I do not prove that there is an inconsistency, but there is a puzzle of how the two methods can be made consistent. The concern about inconsistency is because the former method allows for a kind of historical bias, as noted by T.H. Irwin, whereas the latter method seeks to guard against historical bias.
T.H. Irwin’s stimulating commentary on John Rawls anticipates but does not make “the subset objection to Rawls.” This term of mine is potentially misleading, but Irwin’s commentary is more so: I argue that relevant parts involve dubious commitments.
An objection to John Rawls’s original position is that it faces a problem of inconsistent features: the individuals in this hypothetical situation are not supposed to know where they are in history, but they have knowledge of general social science, from which they can infer at which point in time they are. In this paper, I consider two solutions. One of these solutions depends on extending a solution to another well-known objection: that readers cannot imagine lacking the knowledge that these (...) individuals lack. (shrink)
Do individuals in John Rawls’s original position take into account the fallibility of human nature? Some notable commentators on Rawls say that they do or that they should. But this enables us to say that individuals in the original position would not come to an agreement at all.
Are John Rawls’s most noticeable methodological contributions, reflective equilibrium and the original position, consistent with each other? I draw attention to a worry that they stand in inconsistent relationships to the claim that ought implies can: it can only be the case that we ought to do something if we can do it.
Liberalism is often claimed to be at odds with feminism and critical race theory (CRT). This article argues, to the contrary, that Rawlsian liberalism supports the central commitments of both. Section 1 argues that Rawlsian liberalism supports intersectional feminism. Section 2 argues that the same is true of CRT. Section 3 then uses Young’s ‘Five Faces of Oppression’—a classic work widely utilized in feminism and CRT to understand and contest many varieties of oppression—to illustrate how Rawlsian liberalism supports diverse feminist (...) and CRT projects, and why it may be critical to achieve solidarity between feminism, CRT, and Rawlsian liberalism. Finally, Section 4 responds to five objections. (shrink)
Rawls’s contractualist approach to justice is well known for its adoption of ideal theory. This approach starts by setting out the political goal or ideal and leaves it to non-ideal or partial compliance theory to map out how to get there. However, Rawls’s use of ideal theory has been criticized by Sen from the right and by Mouffe from the left. We critically address these concerns in the context of developing a Rawlsian approach to climate justice. While the importance of (...) non-ideal theory for climate justice is increasingly being understood, its strategic and institutional importance for a Rawlsian approach needs further elaboration. We focus on the role of the Kantian conception of the reasonable and rational powers of persons in Rawls’s work and show how this helps us to develop a partial compliance theory that focuses on the importance of institutions and strategic political action for achieving climate justice. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, contrary to what some critics suggest, political liberalism is not exclusionary with regards to the rights and interests of individuals with cognitive disabilities. I begin by defending four publicly justifiable reasons that are collectively sufficient for the inclusion of members of this group. Briefly, these are the epistemic uncertainty that inevitably exists about individuals’ actual capacities, the political liberal duty to treat parents fairly, the social framework that is required for the fulfilment of parental (...) duties, and the necessity of cultivating certain emotions that are strongly associated with reasonableness. These reasons show why a more inclusive reading of political liberalism is plausible, and how this can be achieved without abandoning or revising the theory’s commitment to public reason, the political conception of the person, and the role of social cooperation. I then turn to the question of what a more inclusive political liberalism would look like. More specifically, I argue that, although it would not require the participation of individuals with cognitive disabilities in the practice of legitimation, it would require their full inclusion in the realm of justice as equal rights-bearers. (shrink)
In the last two decades, a robust consensus has emerged among philosophers of science, whereby political, ethical, or social values must play some role in scientific inquiry, and that the ‘value-free ideal’ is thus a misguided conception of science. However, the question of how to distinguish, in a principled way, which values may legitimately influence science remains. This question, which has been dubbed the ‘new demarcation problem,’ has until recently received comparatively less attention from philosophers of science. In this paper, (...) I appeal to Rawls’s theory of justice (1971) on the basis of which I defend a Rawlsian solution to the new demarcation problem. As I argue, the Rawlsian solution places plausible constraints on which values ought to influence scientific inquiry, and, moreover, can be fruitfully applied to concrete cases to determine how the conflicting interests of stakeholders should be balanced. After considering and responding to the objection that Rawls’s theory of justice applies only to the “basic structure” of society, I compare the Rawlsian solution to some other approaches to the new demarcation problem, especially those that emphasize democratic criteria. (shrink)
The aim of the present paper is to offer an interpretation of the Rawlsian original position coherent with its own theory of justice. An evaluation of the aforementioned mechanism is presented. Afterwards, in light of it, a solution of the existing overlapping between its elements is offered. The solution is to consider the formal constraints as «partial conclusions», excluding them from the original position. The original position, as an «intermediate stage» aimed at representing the philosophical foundations of Rawls's theory in (...) a way that could provide the deduction of the principles of justice, cannot include straightforwardly any characteristic of those principles, not even the formal ones. The remainder of the elements of the original position (the idea of a contract, the circumstances of justice, the veil of ignorance and the rationality of the parties), acting conjointly, allow for the deduction of the formal constraints themselves. In addition, they also engender the same effects on the exclusion of egoism as a proposal of principles of justice. (shrink)
Epistemic states of uncertainty play important roles in ethical and political theorizing. Theories that appeal to a “veil of ignorance,” for example, analyze fairness or impartiality in terms of certain states of ignorance. It is important, then, to scrutinize proposed conceptions of ignorance and explore promising alternatives in such contexts. Here, I study Lerner’s probabilistic egalitarian theorem in the setting of imprecise probabilities. Lerner’s theorem assumes that a social planner tasked with distributing income to individuals in a population is “completely (...) ignorant” about which utility functions belong to which individuals. Lerner models this ignorance with a certain uniform probability distribution, and shows that, under certain further assumptions, income should be equally distributed. Much of the criticism of the relevance of Lerner’s result centers on the representation of ignorance involved. Imprecise probabilities provide a general framework for reasoning about various forms of uncertainty including, in particular, ignorance. To what extent can Lerner’s conclusion be maintained in this setting? (shrink)
One of John Rawls’s major aims, when he wrote A Theory of Justice, was to present a superior alternative to utilitarianism. Rawls’s worry was that utilitarianism may fail to protect the fundamental rights and liberties of persons in its attempt to maximize total social welfare. Rawls’s main argument against utilitarianism was that, for such reasons, the representative parties in the original position will not choose utilitarianism, but will rather choose his justice as fairness, which he believed would securely protect the (...) worth of everybody’s basic rights and liberties. In this paper, I will argue that, under close formal examination, Rawls’s argument against utilitarianism is self-defeating. That is, I will argue that Rawls’s own reasons, assumptions, and the many theoretical devices he employs demonstrably imply that the representative parties in the original position will choose utilitarianism instead of justice as fairness. (shrink)
Many of us assume that all the free editing and sorting of online content we ordinarily rely on is carried out by AI algorithms — not human persons. Yet in fact, that is often not the case. This is because human workers remain cheaper, quicker, and more reliable than AI for performing myriad tasks where the right answer turns on ineffable contextual criteria too subtle for algorithms to yet decode. The output of this work is then used for machine learning (...) purposes to generate algorithms constructed from large data sets containing thousands of correctly coded observations. The fact that ghost workers are treated as consumers distorts the basic logic of the employment relationship, effectively placing the worker-as-consumer in the worst of both worlds, in which they hold the legal rights of neither group. This puts them in a regulatory limbo position in which they have little or no protection, control, or guarantee of return on investment. This is because the platforms that facilitate ghost work have orchestrated a three-way virtual relationship that absolves all parties of responsibility, while placing nearly all the risks and opportunity costs squarely on the shoulders of the workers. As a result, we believe such a work arrangement as it stands, does not uphold basic standards of Rawlsian justice as fairness. (shrink)
This article argues that diverse theorists have reasons to theorize about fairness in nonideal conditions, including theorists who reject fairness in ideal theory. It then develops a new all-purpose model of ‘nonideal fairness.’ §1 argues that fairness is central to nonideal theory across diverse ideological and methodological frameworks. §2 then argues that ‘nonideal fairness’ is best modeled by a nonideal original position adaptable to different nonideal conditions and background normative frameworks (including anti-Rawlsian ones). §3 then argues that the parties to (...) the model have grounds to seek a variety of remedial social, legal, cultural, and economic ‘nonideal primary goods’ for combating injustice, as well as grounds to distribute these goods in an equitable and inclusive manner. Finally, I illustrate how the model indexes the nonideal primary goods it justifies to different nonideal contexts and background normative frameworks, illustrating why diverse theorists should find the model and its output principles attractive. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine global public reason as a method of justifying a global state. Ultimately, I conclude that global public reason fails to justify a global state. This is the case, because global public reason faces an unwinnable dilemma. The global public reason theorist must endorse either a hypothetical theory of consent or an actual theory of consent; if she endorses a theory of hypothetical consent, then she fails to justify her principles; and if she endorses a theory (...) of actual consent, her theory will lead to a highly unstable political system. On either side of the dilemma, global public reason faces untenable implications. Although similar criticisms have been advanced against domestic public reason, my argument is not repeating points made before me. My argument is new, in that it raises these objections specifically against global public reason, and in that it shows how, due to increased diversity of belief in the global arena, these problems are more pressing for global public reason than they are for domestic public reason. (shrink)
In “The Difference Principle Would Not Be Chosen behind the Veil of Ignorance,” Johan E. Gustafsson argues that the parties in the Original Position would not choose the Difference Principle to regulate their society’s basic structure. In reply to this internal critique, we provide two arguments. First, his choice models do not serve as a counterexample to the choice of the difference principle, as the models must assume that individual rationality scales to collective contexts in a way that begs the (...) question in favor of utilitarianism. Second, the choice models he develops are incompatible with the constraints of fairness that apply in the OP, which by design subordinates claims of rationality to claims of impartiality. When the OP is modeled correctly the difference principle is indeed entailed by the conditions of the OP. (shrink)
This thesis focuses on what I call the question of exclusion. This question, I argue, is one that poses serious challenges to social contract approaches to justice and political legitimacy. In an intuitive way, the exclusion of some individuals seems to be a corollary of the social contractualist approach, which ascribes justice or legitimacy to a social arrangement insofar as it can be regarded as the product of the (actual – expressed or tacit – or hypothetical) consent of specified parties. (...) Consequently, this approach excludes those whose consent is not required in order to view an arrangement as legitimate or just. Given the enormous and continuing influence of John Rawls’s social contract theory, I take the Rawlsian view as my primary focus, concentrating on the way in which the question of exclusion raises challenges for Rawlsian contractualism. According to Rawls’s theory, those who participate in the hypothetical contract and to whom political power ought to be justifiable are reasonable and rational. They are reasonable in the sense that they understand and are willing to comply with the requirements of justice and they are rational in that they have the capacity to form, revise, and pursue a conception of the good. This gives rise to two categories of exclusion. In the first part of the thesis, I examine the exclusion of those who will develop the two moral powers sufficiently only if those who are represented in the social contract act (or refrain from acting) in certain ways. This category includes children, foetuses, and unreasonable citizens. Intuitively, justice issues in requirements in at least some of these cases, but it is hard to make sense of this on the Rawlsian approach. In the second part of the thesis, I address the question of exclusion regarding those who will never develop the two moral powers to the requisite degree, such as individuals with severe cognitive disabilities and non-human animals. Again, intuitively, justice issues in requirements here, but their justification is not clear on the contractualist approach. My conclusion is threefold. First, I argue that the problems the question of exclusion poses cannot be addressed by a single solution. Second, I safeguard Rawlsian contractualism by showing how each problem can be resolved. Third, I offer policy-prescriptions on a number of issues, such as education, abortion, and the criminal justice system. (shrink)
This article argues political liberalism can and should be revised to improve its relevance to the private law. This approach is not a rejection of political liberalism, but instead a restatement consistent with the fundamental tenets of Rawls’s theory of justice. The first part begins with a brief summary of Rawls’s political liberalism. The second part discusses the strategies used to demonstrate the relevance of Rawls’s theory to the private law. The third part examines how Rawls’s theory can and should (...) be revised by incorporating capabilities. I argue this revision can be undertaken in a way that best develops the relevance of political liberalism. (shrink)
The core idea of secular Buddhism is to grasp the spirit of early Buddhism and transpose it into the present. An application of this idea to the doctrine of rebirth leads to the following result: -/- The doctrine of rebirth cannot be revised in a strict sense, but there are some striking similarities between the ancient and modern (biological) view on the topic. Since the stream of genetic and epigenetic information has the power to create consciousness and reflects experiences of (...) past lives, it can be associated with the stream of consciousness (cittasantana) in the Mahayana model of rebirth. Parents not only determine the genetic constitution of their children, but they also transfer character traits by means of epigenetic heredity. If genetic inheritance is associated with karma, then genes become an element of synchronic and diachronic connectedness (pratitya-samutpada). Instead of an individual learning process across successive lives, there is a collective learning process across successive generations. -/- Given the biological model of rebirth, the belief in cosmic justice turns into a quest for mundane justice. There is a thought experiment for constructing such a concept, which complies well with the secular Buddhist spirit. John Rawls assumes that the legislative deliberation is taking place “behind a veil of ignorance”, so that the participants of the deliberation do not know their future genetic constitution and their future position within the society. If the participants imagine that their future self is contingent and impermanent – in accordance with the Buddhist doctrine of anatta and anitya – then the resulting principles of justice will be impartial. (shrink)
Some people are multi-billionaires; others die because they are too poor to afford food or medications. In many countries, people are denied rights to free speech, to participate in political life, or to pursue a career, because of their gender, religion, race or other factors, while their fellow citizens enjoy these rights. In many societies, what best predicts your future income, or whether you will attend college, is your parents’ income. -/- To many, these facts seem unjust. Others disagree: even (...) if these facts are regrettable, they aren’t issues of justice. A successful theory of justice must explain why clear injustices are unjust and help us resolve current disputes. -/- John Rawls (1921-2002) was a Harvard philosopher best known for his A Theory of Justice (1971), which attempted to define a just society. Nearly every contemporary scholarly discussion of justice references A Theory of Justice. This essay reviews its main themes. (shrink)
John Rawls argues that the Difference Principle would be chosen by parties trying to advance their individual interests behind the Veil of Ignorance. Behind this veil, the parties do not know who they are and they are unable to assign or estimate probabilities to their turning out to be any particular person in society. Much discussion of Rawls’s argument concerns whether he can plausibly rule out the parties’ having access to probabilities about who they are. Nevertheless, I argue that, even (...) if the parties lacked access to probabilities about who they are in society, they would still reject the Difference Principle. I argue that there are cases where it is still clear to the parties that it is not in any of their individual interests that the Difference Principle is adopted. (shrink)
Central to the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is the question of whether the core modeling device of Rawls' theory of justice, the original position, justifies Rawls' principles of justice, as Rawls suggests, or whether it justifies the average utility principle, as Harsanyi suggests. Many commentators agree with Harsanyi and consider this dispute to be primarily about the correct application of normative decision theory to Rawls' original position. I argue that, if adequately conceived, the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is not primarily a dispute about the (...) correct application of normative decision theory to Rawls' original position. Instead, Rawls and Harsanyi aim to model different moral ideals, and this difference in their moral assumptions leads them to significantly different conclusions about justice. There is no winner in the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute. Instead, the dispute merely clarifies the moral ideals and their formal representations that need to be assumed in order to justify either Rawls' contractualist principles of justice or the average utility principle. Thus understood, the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute offers a promising starting point for future research that can deepen and enrich our understanding of the demands of justice. (shrink)
According to prioritarianism, an influential theory of distributive justice, we have a stronger reason to benefit people the worse off these people are. Many authors have adopted a consequentialist version of prioritarianism. On this account, we have a consequentialist reason to benefit the worse off because the state of affairs where the worse off gains a given amount of utility is more valuable than the state of affairs where the better off gains roughly the same amount of utility. In this (...) paper, we argue that the consequentialist approach to prioritarianism is problematic. However, it doesn't follow that the prioritarian doctrine per se is groundless. We then suggest that we can make sense of prioritarianism by appeal to a contractualist approach. (shrink)
Attempts to justify the special moral status of human beings over other animals face a well-known objection: the challenge of marginal cases. If we attempt to ground this special status in the unique rationality of humans, then it becomes difficult to see why nonrational humans should be treated any differently than other, nonhuman animals. We respond to this challenge by turning to the social contract tradition. In particular, we identify an important role for the concept of recognition in attempts to (...) secure rights through a social contract. Recognition, which involves identifying with or seeing ourselves as others, is the key to establishing the scope of justice, and we argue that this scope extends to all humans—even the so-called marginal cases—but not to other animals. If this is correct, then we have a principled reason for why all humans have certain rights that other animals lack. (shrink)
The common conception of justice as reciprocity seemingly is inapplicable to relations between non-overlapping generations. This is a challenge also to John Rawls’s theory of justice as fairness. This text responds to this by way of reinterpreting and developing Rawls’s theory. First, by examining the original position as a model, some revisions of it are shown to be wanting. Second, by drawing on the methodology of constructivism, an alternative solution is proposed: an amendment to the primary goods named ‘sustainability of (...) values’. This revised original position lends support to intergenerational justice as fairness. (shrink)
A natural view in distributive ethics is that everyone's interests matter, but the interests of the relatively worse off matter more than the interests of the relatively better off. I provide a new argument for this view. The argument takes as its starting point the proposal, due to Harsanyi and Rawls, that facts about distributive ethics are discerned from individual preferences in the "original position." I draw on recent work in decision theory, along with an intuitive principle about risk-taking, to (...) derive the view. (shrink)
Résumé: Ce chapitre porte sur les théories de la justice distributive entre générations. La première partie discute trois défis à la possibilité même de parler d’obligations de justice intergénérationnelle : le problème de la non-existence, le problème de la non-identité, la conclusion répugnante. La deuxième partie discute la justification et la définition des obligations de justice à l’égard des générations futures, à partir de trois théories : le suffisantisme, le welfarisme, le principe de juste épargne de Rawls. Cette discussion conclut (...) que : (i) la version la plus plausible du suffisantisme prôné par le célèbre rapport Brundtland est un suffisantisme multiniveaux, qui permet de prioriser la satisfaction des besoins de base des différentes générations tout en reconnaissant l’importance de garantir les aspirations dans un second temps. (ii) Le problème de la malléabilité des préférences futures semble de prime abord une objection décisive contre le welfarisme intergénérationnel : même si nous leur léguions très peu de ressources et un environnement dégradé, nous pourrions apprendre aux générations suivantes à adapter leurs préférences à cette situation. Nous montrons que le welfarisme peut répondre à cette objection. (iii) Une interprétation à la fois suffisantiste et limitiste du principe de juste épargne rawlsien est proposée : l’épargne intergénérationnelle est requise jusqu’à ce que le capital accumulé suffise à maintenir les institutions justes ; sous la forme de croissance des richesses matérielles, l’épargne intergénérationnelle est prohibée au-delà d’une certaine limite car elle érode le sens de la justice. La troisième partie aborde la question de la mise en œuvre de la justice intergénérationnelle en contexte non-idéal. -/- Abstract This chapter is about distributive justice between generations. The first part discusses three challenges to the meaningfulness of talking about obligations of intergenerational justice: the non-existence problem, the non-identity problem, the repugnant conclusion. The second part discusses the justification and definition of justice obligations towards future generations, according to three theories: sufficientarianism, welfarism, Rawls’s just savings principle. This discussion reaches three conclusions. (i) The most plausible version of Brundtland’s sufficientarianism is multilevels sufficientarianism, which enables us to prioritize meeting the basic needs of each generation over the fulfilment of their aspirations, without denying the importance of realizing these aspirations once needs are being met. (ii) At a first glance, the fact that future preferences are malleable seems a problem for intergenereational welfarism and a decisive objection against it. Even if we bequeathed very little resources and a degraded environment to the next generation, we could teach them to adapt their preferences to this situation. We argue that welfarism can answer this objection. (iii) We propose an interpretation of Rawls’s just savings principle that is both sufficientarian and limitarian. Intergenerational savings are required until enough capital is accumulated to maintain just institutions over time. Intergenerational savings in the form of material wealth growth is prohibited beyond a certain limit because it erodes the sense of justice. The third part addresses how to implement intergenerational justice in a non-ideal context. (shrink)
This paper presents an objection to John Rawls’s use of the original position method to argue against implementing utilitarian rules. The use of this method is pointless because a small subset of the premises Rawls relies on can be used to infer the same conclusion.
In this article, I defend the veil of ignorance against the objection that the device is inadequate for deriving demands of justice, because the veil of ignorance purportedly enforces a stronger form of impartiality than Kant’s categorical imperative and, primarily as a consequence, it generally leads to non-prioritarian conclusions. I show that the moral ideal of impartiality that is expressed by the veil of ignorance is not essentially different from Kant’s notion of impartiality and that it does not generally lead (...) to non-prioritarian conclusions. Although the moral ideal of impartiality that is modeled by the veil of ignorance demands solid justification for favoring particular positions of society, it generally does not rule out prioritarianism. Rather, the non-prioritarian conclusions reached by many theories of justice that rely on veil of ignorance reasoning are a result of the complex structures of these theories and the way that they combine and weigh different moral ideals, as well as their informational bases. (shrink)
En este artículo defiendo que la concepción rawlsiana de la justicia distributiva va más allá de los márgenes de la justicia asignativa y que esta presenta buenos argumentos para hacer frente a las demandas de reconocimiento. Para alcanzar este objetivo, en primer lugar muestro que algunos críticos del paradigma liberal distributivo malinterpretan la concepción de la justicia distributiva elaborada por Rawls y reducen su finalidad a un mero reparto de bienes. Al hacer lo anterior, ellos no logran comprender la dimensión (...) moral de la propuesta rawlsiana, propuesta firmemente asentada en la idea de reconocimiento. En segundo lugar, analizo la relevancia que tienen las nociones de reconocimiento recíproco y autorrespeto en la teoría de la justicia de Rawls, para finalmente mostrar cómo a partir de ellas se puede reinterpretar la finalidad de la justicia distributiva e incluir las demandas de reconocimiento. (shrink)
Widely hailed as one of the most significant works in modern political philosophy, John Rawls's _Political Liberalism_ defended a powerful vision of society that respects reasonable ways of life, both religious and secular. These core values have never been more critical as anxiety grows over political and religious difference and new restrictions are placed on peaceful protest and individual expression. This anthology of original essays suggests new, groundbreaking applications of Rawls's work in multiple disciplines and contexts. Thom Brooks, Martha Nussbaum, (...) Onora O'Neill, Paul Weithman, Jeremy Waldron, and Frank Michelman explore political liberalism's relevance to the challenges of multiculturalism, the relationship between the state and religion, the struggle for political legitimacy, and the capabilities approach. Extending Rawls's progressive thought to the fields of law, economics, and public reason, this book helps advance the project of a free society that thrives despite disagreements over religious and moral views. (shrink)
An essay on the article "Reason and Feeling in Thinking about Justice," by Susan Moller Okin is presented. It offers a history of the original position in philosophical reasoning for explaining a sense of justice and examines feminist criticisms against such thinking for failure to appreciate differences and otherness while focused on universality and impartiality. The author relates the choice feminist theories on ethic of sympathy or care for others in place of an ethic of justice in general.
Theorists have long debated whether John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness can be extended to nonideal (i.e. unjust) social and political conditions, and if so, what the proper way of extending it is. This paper argues that in order to properly extend justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a “nonideal original position.” I begin by providing a new analysis of the ideal/nonideal theory distinction (...) within Rawls’ theoretical framework. I then systematically construct a nonideal original position, showing that although its parties must have Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations as background aims, the parties should be entirely free to weigh those aims against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions. Next, I show that the parties ought to aim to secure for themselves a special class of nonideal primary goods: all-purpose goods similar to Rawls’ original primary goods, but which in this case are all-purpose goods individuals might use to (A) promote Rawlsian ideals under nonideal conditions, (B) weigh Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions, and (C) effectively pursue their most favored weighting thereof. I then defend a provisional list of nonideal primary goods which include opportunities to participate effectively in equitable and inclusive grassroots reform movements guided by a series of substantive aims. Finally, I briefly speculate on how the parties to the nonideal original position might deliberate to principles of nonideal justice for distributing nonideal primary goods, suggesting that those goods should be distributed in proportion to unjust disadvantage. (shrink)
Rawls’s consideration not to include the choice of economic systems as part of a theory of justice is inconsistent with his comments on redistribution and the political effects of economic inequality. When Rawls’s discussion of economic systems and his discussion of economic inequalities is examined, it is apparent that the selection of economic systems is a pertinent topic for a theory of justice. The propensity for the primary social good of self-respect to be satisfied can be affected by the selection (...) of economic systems. Rawls has incorrectly determined the selection of economic systems to be unimportant if different economic systems can be more advantageous to the satisfaction of self-respect than others. When socialism and Rawls’s version of regulated capitalism are compared, socialism is a maximin solution, and accordingly will be selected by people within the original position under the veil of ignorance. (shrink)
In this paper I try to illuminate the Rawlsian architectonic through an interpretation of what Rawls’ Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy say about Rousseau. I argue that Rawls’ emphasis there when discussing Rousseau on interpreting amour-propre so as to make it compatible with a life in at least some societies draws attention to, and helps explicate, an analogous feature of his own work, the strains of commitment broadly conceived. Both are centrally connected with protecting a sense of self (...) which is vital for one’s own agency. This allows us to appreciate better than much of the literature presently does the requirement for Rawls that justice and the good are congruent, that a society of justice does not disfigure citizens’ ability to live out lives relatively unmarked by relations of domination. Some comments on G. A. Cohen’s critiques of Rawls are made. (shrink)
According to the incentives argument, inequalities in material goods are justifiable if they are to the benefit of the worst off members of society. In this paper, I point out what is easily overlooked, namely that inequalities are justifiable only if they are to the overall benefit of the worst off, that is, in terms of both material and social goods. I then address the question how gains in material goods can be weighed against probable losses in social goods. The (...) ultimate criterion, so my idea, is how these gains and losses affect a person’s ability to reach her goals in life. Based on the idea that goals in life cannot be taken as given, I conclude that the absolute material gains are negligible compared to the losses of social goods and the disadvantage in the relative position caused by material inequalities. (shrink)
Does the Anzac ethos have roots in atheism? Does prayer have a place in Parliament? Should 'creation science' be taught in Australian schools? The Australian Book of Atheism is the first collection to explore atheism from an Australian viewpoint. Bringing together essays from 33 of the nation's pre-eminent atheist, rationalist, humanist, and sceptical thinkers, it canvasses a range of opinions on religion and secularism in Australia.
This thesis defends John Rawls’s constructivist theory of justice against three distinct challenges. -/- Part one addresses G. A. Cohen’s claim that Rawls’s constructivism is committed to a mistaken thesis about the relationship between facts and principles. It argues that Rawls’s constructivist procedure embodies substantial moral commitments, and offers an intra-normative reduction rather than a metaethical account. Rawls’s claims about the role of facts in moral theorizing in A Theory of Justice should be interpreted as suggesting that some of our (...) moral beliefs, which we are inclined to hold without reference to facts, are, in fact, true, because certain facts obtain. This thesis and the acknowledgement of the moral assumptions of Rawls’s constructivism help to show that Rawls does not, and does not need to, deny Cohen’s thesis. -/- Part two defends the characterization of the decision problem in Rawls’s original position as a decision problem under uncertainty. Rawls stipulates that the denizens of the original position lack information that they could use to arrive at estimates of the likelihood of ending up in any given social position. It has been argued that Rawls does not have good grounds for this stipulation. I argue that given the nature of the value function we should attribute to the denizens of the original position and our cognitive limitations, which also apply to the denizens of the original position, their decision problem can be characterized as one under uncertainty even if we stipulate that they know that they have an equal chance of being in any individual’s place. -/- Part three assesses the claim that a true commitment to Rawls’s difference principle requires a further commitment to an egalitarian ethos. This egalitarian ethos is offered as a means to bring about equality and Pareto-optimality. Accordingly, I try to undermine the case for an egalitarian ethos by challenging the desirability of the ends it is supposed to further or by showing that it is redundant. I argue that if primary goods are the metric of justice, then Pareto optimality in the space of the metric of justice is undesirable. I then argue that if the metric of justice is welfare, depending on the theory of welfare we adopt, an egalitarian ethos will either be redundant or will have objectionably paternalistic consequences. (shrink)
It is argued that the Nash bargaining solution cannot serve as a principle of distributive justice because (i) it cannot secure stable cooperation in repeated interactions and (ii) it cannot capture our moral intuitions concerning distributive questions. In this article, I propose a solution to the first problem by amending the Nash bargaining solution so that it can maintain stable cooperation among rational bargainers. I call the resulting principle the stabilized Nash bargaining solution. The principle defends justice in the form (...) 'each according to her basic needs and above this level according to her relative bargaining power'. In response to the second problem, I argue that the stabilized Nash bargaining solution can serve as a principle of distributive justice in certain situations where moral reasoning is reduced to instrumental reasoning. In particular, I argue that rational individuals would choose the stabilized Nash bargaining solution in Rawls' original position. (shrink)
In her ‘On the apparent paradox of ideal theory’, Laura Valentini combines three supposedly plausible premises to derive the paradoxical result that ideal theory is both unable to, and indispensable for, guiding action. Her strategy is to undermine one of the three premises by arguing that there are good and bad kinds of ideal theory, and only the bad kinds are vulnerable to the strongest version of their opponents’ attack. By undermining one of the three premises she releases ideal theorists (...) from the paradox, which is as follows. (1) Any sound theory of justice is action-guiding. (2) Any sound theory of justice is ideal. (3) Any ideal theory fails to be action-guiding. Here I shall respond to Valentini in two ways. First, I shall show that both (1) and (2) are false. The falsity of either is sufficient to release ideal theorists from the paradox. Second, I shall show that Valentini’s response to (3) can be extended, because her bad kinds of ideal theory do not necessarily fail to guide action. The cumulative effect of my arguments further strengthens Valentini’s support of ideal theory. I will deal with premises (1) and (2) in Sections I and II, and (3) in Section III. (shrink)
This dissertation defends a “non-ideal theory” of justice: a systematic theory of how to respond justly to injustice. Chapter 1 argues that contemporary political philosophy lacks a non-ideal theory of justice, and defends a variation of John Rawls’ famous original position – a Non-Ideal Original Position – as a method with which to construct such a theory. Chapter 1 then uses the Non-Ideal Original Position to argue for a Fundamental Principle of Non-Ideal Theory: a principle that requires injustices to be (...) dealt with in whichever way will best satisfy the preferences of all relevant individuals, provided those individuals are all rational, adequately informed, broadly moral, and accept the correct “ideal theory” of fully just conditions. Chapter 2 then argues for the Principle of Application – an epistemic principle that represents the Fundamental Principle’s satisfaction conditions in terms of the aims of actual or hypothetical reformist groups. Chapters 3-5 then use these two principles to argue for substantive views regarding global/international justice. Chapter 3 argues that the two principles establish a higher-order human right for all other human rights to promoted and protected in accordance with the two principles of non-ideal theory. Chapter 4 argues that the two principles defeasibly require the international community to tolerate unjust societies, provided those societies respect the most basic rights of individuals. Finally, Chapter 5 argues that the two principles imply a duty of the international community to ameliorate the most severe forms of global poverty, as well as a duty to pursue “fair trade” in international economics. (shrink)
I examine the relationship that obtains between the work of Derrida and Rawls, not least because of the conviction that Derrida (and post-structuralism more generally) offers certain invaluable things to political thought that analytic political philosophy would do well to take account of, particularly as concerns the relation between time and politics. In Derrida’s case, his emphasis on the radical difference of the future, the ‘to come’, serves as a guardrail against political absolutisms of all sorts. On his view, when (...) the future is thought of as known or susceptible of teleological prediction, this tends to lead to what might be rhetorically called outbreaks of either Fascism or Communism (albeit initially non-organised, non-systematised, and without direct state complicity) in which that future state of affairs can justify the violent means needed to get there. Derrida’s many and varied arguments about the way in which the future disrupts the present, and has its impact upon the present, without itself being capable of coming to any kind of definitive presence, precludes this move. His quasi-transcendental emphasis on the importance of time and futurity to any understanding of the political is also useful when employed as a critical tool to examine analytic political philosophy: it highlights that this tradition is often either atemporal in its calculations, or relies upon references to intuition (and ‘commonsense’) in more or less obvious ways, both tendencies which deserve be subjected to critical scrutiny for their tacit alignment with a conservatism that wants to preserve the status quo. But the argument that I propose is not simply that figures like Derrida are able to show us the presuppositions and problems with analytic political philosophy and with Rawls’ work in particular. On the contrary, although philosophers like Derrida and Deleuze acknowledge the necessity of political calculation, it is also the case that it is vastly under-thematised in their work. Utilitarianism and liberalism offer two sustained and important attempts at providing such a calculation and it seems to me that a rapprochement of these traditions is required, fleshing out the kinds of political calculations that might better respect the significant moral insight at work in post-structuralism. In order to point to the need for such a political philosophy, this essay highlights some problems with Rawls and Derrida’s two competing ways of treating the political, juxtaposing Rawls’ insistence upon the calculable and narrower understanding of the political against (or, more aptly, in apposition with) the Derridean focus upon the incalculable. (shrink)