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John Rawls Veil Of Ignorance Essay

Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance

Rawls assumes that behind the veil of ignorance one would select the best decision that adheres to the two principals of justice. However, the lack of knowledge provided behind the veil of ignorance seems to do more harm than good to the decision maker. For example, if one behind the veil were to choose their economic system for their society; they might have a hard time selecting between a free market or socialized economy based off of simple facts.  Though both have been practiced in reality it is not entirely possible to truly understand which competing scenario works the best for all participants given the amount of sample time and other factors that have influenced economics for the past 100 years. Therefore, from a rawlsian perspective one would not know which system provides the better benefits least advantaged. Behind the veil of ignorance one would only know the general facts about the world that they are entering, and even the restriction on the lack of knowledge of one’s personal place with in the system would not do much to solve the problem without more concise data, which is prohibited behind the veil. The lack of specific data handicaps the decision maker behind the veil of ignorance, potentially leading them to selecting the least right decision for their society. Even with reflective equilibrium this would allow decision makers unknowingly break the second principal of justice, thus unraveling his argument, as to truly understand the effects of many policies would take many years to recognize.  

Rawls’ uses the constraints in the veil of ignorance to allow the decision maker to view the world free of frills and biases, and come to a conclusion based off of the sparse facts presented. In section 24 of A Theory of Justice Rawls lists what we know and what we would not know behind the veil. He restricts the decision maker to knowing: general facts, political affairs of society, and all general laws and theories. I assume Rawls does this in order to ensure one would not lose focus and immediately come to a utilitarian conclusion of selecting a society that provides the greatest utility to the majority, along with removing the bias of the decision maker. Utilitarianism does not fit with Rawls’ notion of justice. However, by knee capping utilitarianism he hinders his own position by restricting the person in the original position to sparse data. The four stage sequence proposed by Rawls may help unburden the decision maker throughout the decision process, but it does not provide the specific data about the society until the very final stage, which at that point would be useless as the participants are already locked in to their agreed upon policies. Ayn Rand in Chapter 11 of “Philosophy: Who Needs It.” States that you cannot make rational choices based on ignorance. Inferring that rationality and knowledge are tied together, and that the veil of ignorance separates this natural pair leaving both without each other relatively useless.  Thus the little information that is given behind the veil of ignorance would lead the decision maker to a less informed decision, and ultimately a less optimal one. This would go against Rawls’ implied desire for a utopia as it would not be the most optimal world.

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Discuss And Analyze Rawls 'veil Of Ignorance'

This essay will discuss the validity of reasoning behind a 'veil of ignorance' when considering principles of justice. To reach a satisfactory conclusion requires questioning its applicability to society and if it is beneficial using this reasoning. The first step is to define Rawls' ideal and why he thinks it a valid theory. The essay will then consider the problems with using the veil to create a just society . It will finish with a conclusion on the strength of using this theory in reality.

Offering his theory as an alternative to utilitarianism, the fundamental basis of Rawls' philosophy centred on the principle of autonomy and freedom of the individual. He believed that 'each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.' Rawls follows the thought concept of rational and equal individuals coming together to format a hypothetical contract, a set of principles defining all associations between individuals. The principles of justice would then be used to regulate all basic institutions which govern society. Rawls believed that these principles of justice equating with fairness would 'determine …the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation'. (Rawls, 1971) In order to create a situation where rational and free people are able to make a rational decision under just conditions, Rawls introduces the 'The Original Position.' He describes the original position as 'a hypothetical status quo in which fundamental agreements would be fair.' (Rawls, 1971) Furthermore, Rawls places all individuals behind a 'Veil of Ignorance.' While all deciding parties establishing the guidelines to justice have an equal voice and are able to choose freely, all must approach the task with no knowledge of themselves regarding any self characteristic such as gender, race etc. or a conception of what good is. As Mullah and3Swift put it, 'in denying people in the original position knowledge of their beliefsabout what makes a life worthy or valuable and attributing to them rather a 'highest order interest' of this kind, Rawls is modelling the substantive moral claim that, when thinking about justice, which matters is people's freedom to make their own choices and to change their minds, not whatever it is that they choose.' (Mullah & Swift, 1992) Additionally Rawls suggests that it is only through the veil of ignorance that rational just principles may be chosen. He saw that if 'one excludes the knowledge of contingencies that set men at odds and allows them to be guided by their prejudices' there would be little discord since 'it should be impossible to tailor principles to circumstances of ones' own case.' (Rawls, 1971) Moreover, Rawls argued that as each individual would put their own...

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