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Justice, rawls, and the veil of ignorance

Rawls on justice

In his 1971 book, Theory of Justice, John Rawls constructed a thought experiment to find the basic principles of distributive justice. Rawls begins with the central problem of distributive justice. The goods, harms, and risks that accompany social cooperation must be fairly and justly distributed. Three methods of distribution present themselves as leading candidates: equality, merit, and need.

  • Equality : the benefits, harms, and risks of social cooperation are distributed equally among members of the social group.
  • Merit : the greatest share goes to those who deserve it. Merit can be defined in terms of knowledge, skill, productivity or even moral virtue.
  • Need : the greatest share goes to those who have the greatest need.
  • Beauchamp and Bowie add distribution according to rights, effort, and societal contribution. Beauchamp and Bowie, Ethical Theory and Business, 3rd Edition , p. 44.

Rawls then constructs a thought experiment designed to solve this problem of distribution. Imagine a situation where a group of rationally self-interested individuals choose principles of distribution under a veil of ignorance. (This means that individuals will be making this choice unaware of their own special circumstances, for example, whether they will be rich or poor, born in a wealthy nation or in a developing country, endowed with natural talents or handicapped in some way, etc.)

  1. Rational self-interest leads us to acquire as many primary goods as possible. These include (a) rights and liberties, (b) opportunities and powers, and (c) income and wealth.
  2. Under the veil of ignorance, we pretend to know nothing of our situation. As Rawls puts it, under the veil of ignorance, “no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does any one know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength and the like.” (J. Rawls (1971). A Theory of Justice . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, p. 12)

The veil of ignorance channels rational self-interest toward an impartial and fair system of distribution. Without the veil of ignorance, those who are rich would gravitate toward a scheme of distribution that maintained and even enhanced their wealth. Those who were poor would opt for a scheme that redistributed the wealth of others to themselves. The scheme could also be shifted towards one’s natural talents: if one were strong, one would choose a system of distribution biased toward strength; if one were intelligent, one would choose a system of distribution that rewarded intelligence; if one were male, one would choose a system that favored men. Rational self interest without the veil of ignorance would bias the principles of justice chosen. But the veil of ignorance pushes rational self-interest toward impartiality because the rationally self-interested individual must choose to protect all possibilities, not knowing in advance which one will apply.

With this in mind, Rawls’ basic position can be summarized in the following manner:

Questions & Answers

what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Collection of ethics modules for civis. OpenStax CNX. Feb 26, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11493/1.1
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