In A Theory Of Justice, John Rawls seeks to reconcile the concepts of equality and liberty, and consequently solve the problem of distributive justice.
Summary Of The Book
A Theory Of Justice is American philosopher John Rawls’ exploration of ethics within the historically rich framework of political philosophy. At the heart of his theory lie the two concepts of equality and fairness, which he proposes comes from an original position, or a veil of ignorance. This position is one from which a person can determine a fair arrangement for the society without any prejudices or preconceived notions.
When a person attempts at determining a “social contract” with which to live in the society, the veil of ignorance helps him or her come from a position of no consequence. That is, the person from behind this veil doesn’t know of his position in the social hierarchical structure, in terms of class, race, sex, and other relevant factors.
This is the Kantian way of thinking, as according to this mode of thought, the set of principles of justice shouldn’t be determined in view of the consequences these principles have on individuals. Individuals who don’t know how a set of principles will affect them will generally be able to construct a fair society.
Rawls believes that to create a just society, equality and fairness should be the primary ingredients in the mix. Through the veil of ignorance, Rawls lifts the veil off of the current biases that dominate our way of thinking in society and also suggests that this will help create fair social arrangements that are free of bias.
In this way, A Theory Of Justice tackles the problem of distributive justice, that is, distributing good in the society in a just and fair manner. Rawls uses a variant of the popular social contract theory. The result is a theory called Justice as Fairness, which leads to the two principles of justice, the difference principle and the liberty principle.
Since its publishing, A Theory Of Justice has been touched upon by many great thinkers of the twentieth century, including Robert Nozick, Allan Bloom, and Amartya Sen, who have discussed and critiqued the book from head to toe. The book’s popularity is evident from the fact that an award winning musical called A Theory of Justice: The Musical! was premiered in Oxford as recently as in 2013.
About John Rawls
John Rawls was an American philosopher.
He is the author of Political Liberalism, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and The Law of Peoples.
Rawls was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He joined the Army immediately after receiving his Bachelor’s of Arts. Soon after, he left the army and earned a PhD in Moral Philosophy at Princeton University. Thus, began a glorious career in academia. He held the Fulbright Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford, and the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University. He is the recipient of the National Humanities Medal and the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy.
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