Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

(H1) A Look Into the Work of John Rawls

One of the twentieth century's most important political philosophers is John Rawls. Coming from Maryland, Rawls pursued a Ph.D. at Princeton and then began his work into the philosophy surrounding political subjects. His first works focused on the structure and positions of individuals in society. After many years of thought and philosophizing, he produced the book A Theory of Justice, which drastically influenced how people perceived society's fairness and structure.

Rawls methods including asking the readers what they saw as fairness and the restructuring  of society. Such questions as who would get what and how things would be given out and on what terms. It was with these works that Rawls made his discoveries. He found that depending on who he asked, the answers he received varied. For example, asking those on the top of society how it would be structured resulted in answers often allowing a "rich" class to exist and for there to be a dominant class in society. However, if one were to ask the poorest of humanity, the answered offered by them would often feature a society in which no one was on the bottom and everyone was equal.

This revealed the ultimate bias held by every person in society, as their logic and reasoning is heavily influenced by their current position in the current society and the relation that brings to the new society they are asked to developed. Depending on where they predicted themselves to be in this new society, answers varied. Rawls attributed this to a theory of "original position".

To counter this, Rawls proposes that the person asks be clad in a veil of ignorance as to what place in society they would occupy. They would not know their wealth, religion, sexual orientation, race, or gender. Thus, they would often create the most fair society which would guarantee security no matter where they were placed in this society. Using this method, he developed his theory of justice which was composed of two main ideas: freedom and equality.

The first was the Liberty Principle. This principle embodied the basic liberal idea that everyone should be granted and guaranteed the most basic of necessities and rights. For example, every person, no matter their background should be guaranteed the access to a healthy life style and survival. Secondly, everyone should be given basic rights to affect their life, such as voting, free speech, and ability to manage their own government. This requires that everyone have the ability to elect their leaders and to all have a voice in the election processes. Additionally, he had a strong belief in their value and that above all, these liberties should be protected, even if that meant the potential to harm for others in order for one to maintain these rights.

His second principle was the Difference Principle. It is in this principle that Rawls separates himself from the basic principles governing equality accepted by all that are included in the Liberty Principle. He makes his firmest stances about equality within the difference principle. He focuses heavily on the problems such as those that are given the worst situations without any fault of their own. Such as the poorest of humanity born in Africa aren't given the opportunities of the average middle class American. To combat this, he believed that the most initially disadvantaged individuals in society are given the biggest ability to gain wealth. He believed that the majority of social economical advancements should be given towards the pursuit of bettering the lives of those in the worst scenarios to start with. He expresses his ideas that the only time that people should earn separate wages is when it assists those in the lower classes. However, this is the possibility that giving more wealth to a more privileged or wealthier individual could help the lower class. For example, if a millionaire were to exist and if them getting more wealth would actually benefit the poor more so than giving the money directly to the poor, it should be done. This could be allowing for technological or infrastructure  advancements made by the upper class to help the lower class in whole. Therefore, the rich would only receive more money if it were going to lead to the poor getting wealth they wouldn't otherwise receive.

Many state that there would be those willing to take a gamble when structuring the society. Some would risk becoming poor if it meant a chance at becoming super rich. Such as a life lottery. Rawls believed that no one would in conscious take that chance. However, many also offer the thought that if people were already in such poor conditions they would be willing to take the risk to rise to the top for any chance at wealth. If people only knew poverty and have dealt with it for so long, what was stopping them from taking the risk. Rawls still believed that someone's whole life was not worth gambling with and that with his structure of society there was a much better chance at not gambling and simply being filled into the larger middle class.

 Rawls believed that this would be the best economical and societal structure and that everyone educated would chose this if they had no clue as to what class status they would occupy if they were to reset society.

This is all contrary to the commonly practiced societal structuring which had few rich, many in the middle, and few poor. This sort of averaging did not sit well with Rawls and he believed that no super rich, and a strong middle class was the way to benefit all as a whole. Many opposed this as it said it lead to no one trying to climb above the rest which leads to no achievement. If someone cannot earn more if they try harder why would they?

This a point in which many disagree with Rawls' structuring because most believe that excellence should be rewarded. That those who work hard will earn the fruits of their labor. However, it was Rawls' belief that there should be no tie between being better and being better off because of it.
Rawls was against a mind set of Darwinism. He disliked celebrities and athletes ability to earn much, much more than the average person simply because they were 'lucky' within their natural construction. He doesn't believe that luck should play any role in a person's ability to life and equal life with the same opportunities as well.

Because of his works, many in the philosophy field and political field, re looked at how they saw justice and fairness and their understanding of how society is structured.

His works were also some of his centuries only successful looks back into the close believes held by those of the earliest philosophers. Rawls' believes were very close to those of Hobbes and Aristotle.


  1. I'm really digging it, man. One thing you could do in your final post to structure it a little more is to include what sections in his book each idea is presented in. Other than that I can't really think of anything, looks pretty good dude

  2. "He disliked celebrities and athletes ability to earn much, much more than the average person simply because they were 'lucky' within their natural construction. He doesn't believe that luck should play any role in a person's ability to life and equal life with the same opportunities as well." - He had a point, especially considering how often "luck" in a consumerist society is a matter of inheritance. But I wonder if the Difference Principle might not be stretched to rationalize at least some athlete/celebrity advantage. Is there not a sense in which the impecunious sports fan is "better off" in a society that rewards his heroes (LeBron or Tom Hanks, say) with wealth, since the absence of financial reward might have discouraged them from pursuing their athletic/film careers? A stretch perhaps, in Rawslian terms, but worth considering.

    One of the most interesting commentaries I've seen on Rawls is Carlin Romano's, in "America the Philosophical." Maybe you'd like to take a look - https://books.google.com/books?id=AQPOD5K2-IsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=america+the+philosophical&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8rpGW9dLQAhUIQyYKHesRAhoQ6AEIJDAB#v=onepage&q=america%20the%20philosophical&f=false