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What role does the original position play is Rawl's defence of his two principles of justice in "A theory of Justice"?

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Introduction

What role does the original position play is Rawl's defence of his two principles of justice? In "A Theory of Justice" John Rawls puts forwards a social contract based upon two principles of justice, the idea of "Original Position" is a key feature in understanding and justifying these principles which attempt to be the groundwork for a society operating with the concept of 'Justice as fairness". Rawls uses the 'original position' to help people arrive at the basic principles which should govern any society. He suggests that people should imagine themselves without any government and rationally deduce what kind of a government would be supported by his social contract and therefore achieve a just society in which every citizen is treated fairly. Since he acknowledges that we are essentially self-interested, original position requires us to assume a 'veil of ignorance'. This means we should suppose we are ignorant to factors such as sex, race, generation, social class and any disabilities, so therefore effectively cease to know who we are and where we stand in the world. ...read more.

Middle

This principle can be defended by the original position since no person who is ignorant of their position in society would decree that there should be restrictions on who is allowed to vote or encourage tight censorship laws applicable to only certain groups of people. This follows because each person would fear that they themselves would fall into a category which is restricted, Rawls refers to this idea as "The Maximin Rule" and assumes that every person is going to choose the least bad alternative in order to minimise their own discomfort in the event that they fall into a particular category with in society. Applied to political freedom this means no person would say women cannot vote or working classes cannot vote because according to Rawls they should assume not to know if they themselves are a woman or a working class citizen. The second principle of justice or "Difference Principle" put forwards by Rawls refers to inequalities in society. He was aware the inequalities are inevitable in any society but he put forwards guidelines under which they could be deemed acceptable. ...read more.

Conclusion

Norman Daniels explains that "The original positions is well designed to enforce the abstract right to equal concern and respect." 2 It is this, he adds, which is "The fundamental concept of Rawl's deep theory." It seems that Rawls uses the original position to help his discussion and it greatly strengthens his argument since it allows him to demonstrate how he arrives at his two principles of justice. By removing morally irrelevant features and placing them behind a veil of ignorance it becomes clear that justice can be called fair. It can be applied to examples which illustrate the effectiveness of a society based on his principles and make it clearer and easier for his readers to understand. The society which Rawls arrives at seems to be a just, egalitarian one in which equal rights are given. Through his use of original position Rawls provides guidelines for what it is for a society to operate in a just manner. 1 "A Theory Of Justice" John Rawls (Harvard University press 1999) 2 "Critical study on Rawls' 'A Theory of Justice' by Norman Daniels (Stanford University Press 1989) ...read more.

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