⌛ John Rawls Individualism

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John Rawls Individualism



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Introduction to Rawls: A Theory of Justice

This is not to say that such Millian passages are without thoughtful defenders. See, for example, Inder Marawah Nevertheless, it raises a question that still divides liberals: are liberal political principles justified for all political communities? In The Law of Peoples Rawls argues that they are not. David Miller develops a different defense of this anti-universalistic position, while those such as Thomas Pogge ch. The debate about whether liberal principles apply to all political communities should not be confused with the debate as to whether liberalism is a state-centered theory, or whether, at least ideally, it is a cosmopolitan political theory for the community of all humankind.

Immanuel Kant — a moral universalist if ever there was one — argued that all states should respect the dignity of their citizens as free and equal persons, yet denied that humanity forms one political community. Thus he rejected the ideal of a universal cosmopolitan liberal political community in favor of a world of states, all with internally just constitutions, and united in a confederation to assure peace []. On a classical liberal theory, the difference between a world of liberal communities and a world liberal community is not of fundamental importance.

Since the aim of government in a community is to assure the basic liberty and property rights of its citizens, borders are not of great moral significance in classical liberalism Lomasky, If liberal principles require significant redistribution, then it is crucially important whether these principles apply only within particular communities, or whether their reach is global. Thus a fundamental debate between Rawls and many of his followers is whether the difference principle should only be applied within a liberal state such as the United States where the least well off are the least well off Americans , or whether it should be applied globally where the least well off are the least well off in the world Rawls, a: ff; Beitz, ff; Pogge, Part Three.

Liberal political theory also fractures concerning the appropriate response to groups cultural, religious, etc. These groups may deny education to some of their members, advocate female genital mutilation, restrict religious freedom, maintain an inequitable caste system, and so on. When, if ever, should a liberal group interfere with the internal governance of an illiberal group? Suppose first that the illiberal group is another political community or state. Can liberals intervene in the affairs of non-liberal states? Here Mill is generally against intervention. In addition to questions of efficacy, to the extent that peoples or groups have rights to collective self-determination, intervention by a liberal group to induce a non-liberal community to adopt liberal principles will be morally objectionable.

As with individuals, liberals may think that peoples or groups have freedom to make mistakes in managing their collective affairs. Thus rather than proposing a doctrine of intervention many liberals propose various principles of toleration which specify to what extent liberals must tolerate non-liberal peoples and cultures. Chandran Kukathas — whose liberalism derives from the classical tradition — is inclined to almost complete toleration of non-liberal peoples, with the non-trivial proviso that there must be exit rights. The status of non-liberal groups within liberal societies has increasingly become a subject of debate, especially with respect to some citizens of faith.

We should distinguish two questions: i to what extent should non-liberal cultural and religious communities be exempt from the requirements of the liberal state? Turning to i , liberalism has a long history of seeking to accommodate religious groups that have deep objections to certain public policies, such as the Quakers, Mennonites or Sikhs. The most difficult issues in this regard arise in relation to children and education see Galston, ; Fowler, ; Andersson, Mill, for example, writes:.

Over the last thirty years, there has been a particular case that is at the core of this debate — Wisconsin vs. Yoder : [ U. In this case, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of Amish parents to avoid compulsory schooling laws and remove their children from school at the age of 14 — thus, according to the Amish, avoiding secular influences that might undermine the traditional Amish way of life. Because cultural and religious communities raise and educate children, they cannot be seen as purely voluntary opt-outs from the liberal state: they exercise coercive power over children, and so basic liberal principles about protecting the innocent from unjustified coercion come into play.

Other liberal theorists, on the other hand, have argued that the state should not intervene because it might undermine the inculcation of certain values that are necessary for the continued existence of certain comprehensive doctrines Galston, p. Moreover, some such as Harry Brighouse have argued that the inculcation of liberal values through compulsory education might undermine the legitimacy of liberal states because children would not due to possible indoctrination be free to consent to such institutions. But many friends of religion e. Again liberals diverge in their responses. Thus Rawls allows the legitimacy of religious-based arguments against slavery and in favor of the United States civil rights movement, because ultimately such arguments were supported by public reasons.

Others e. Thus, citizens of faith would be able to preserve their religious integrity, all the while remaining unable to coerce others via unshared religious reasons. It is not, though, an unimportant or trivial thing that all these theories take liberty to be the grounding political value. Radical democrats assert the overriding value of equality, communitarians maintain that the demands of belongingness trump freedom, and conservatives complain that the liberal devotion to freedom undermines traditional values and virtues and so social order itself.

Intramural disputes aside, liberals join in rejecting these conceptions of political right. Berlin, Isaiah Bosanquet, Bernard communitarianism conservatism contractarianism contractualism cosmopolitanism Enlightenment Green, Thomas Hill Hobbes, Thomas: moral and political philosophy justice: distributive justice: international distributive justification, political: public Kant, Immanuel: social and political philosophy legitimacy, political libertarianism liberty: positive and negative Locke, John: political philosophy markets Mill, John Stuart: moral and political philosophy multiculturalism perfectionism, in moral and political philosophy property and ownership public reason Rawls, John religion and political theory republicanism Rousseau, Jean Jacques toleration.

The Debate About Liberty 1. The Debate About the Comprehensiveness of Liberalism 3. Isaiah Berlin famously advocated a negative conception of liberty: I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity. Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others. If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved. Coercion is not, however, a term that covers every form of inability.

If I say that I am unable to jump more than ten feet in the air, or cannot read because I am blind…it would be eccentric to say that I am to that degree enslaved or coerced. Coercion implies the deliberate interference of other human beings within the area in which I could otherwise act. You lack political liberty or freedom only if you are prevented from attaining a goal by other human beings Berlin, According to Philip Pettit, The contrary of the liber , or free, person in Roman, republican usage was the servus , or slave, and up to at least the beginning of the last century, the dominant connotation of freedom, emphasized in the long republican tradition, was not having to live in servitude to another: not being subject to the arbitrary power of another.

Pettit, On this view, the opposite of freedom is domination. Mill, , vol. Hence it was, I think, that the Philosophers of old did in vain enquire, whether the Summum bonum consisted in Riches, or bodily Delights, or Virtue, or Contemplation: And they might have as reasonably disputed, whether the best Relish were to be found in Apples, Plumbs or Nuts; and have divided themselves into Sects upon it. For…pleasant Tastes depend not on the things themselves, but their agreeableness to this or that particulare Palate, wherein there is great variety… []: The most difficult issues in this regard arise in relation to children and education see Galston, ; Fowler, ; Andersson, Mill, for example, writes: Consider … the case of education.

Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, that the State should require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its citizen? Yet who is there that is not afraid to recognize and assert this truth? Hardly any one indeed will deny that it is one of the most sacred duties of the parents or, as law and usage now stand, the father , after summoning a human being into the world, to give to that being an education fitting him to perform his part well in life towards others and towards himself …. Bibliography Anderson, Elizabeth S. Andersson, Emil Beitz, Charles Benn, Stanley I. Bentham, Jeremy []. Stark ed. Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation , J. Burns and H. Hart eds. Berlin, Isaiah Beveridge, William Bird, Colin Brighouse, Harry Bosanquet, Bernard [].

Gaus and William Sweet eds. Augustine Press. Buchanan James M. Chapman, John W. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman eds. Christman, John and Joel Anderson, eds. Cranston, Maurice Courtland, Shane D. Dagger, Richard Dewey, John Characters and Events , Joseph Ratner ed. Dworkin, Gerald Dworkin, Ronald Eberle, Christopher J. Ely, James W. Jr Feinberg, Joel Harm to Others , Oxford: Clarendon Press. Fowler, Timothy Michael Freeden, Michael Galston, William Gaus, Gerald F. Benn and G. Gaus eds. Gaus and Chandran Kukathas eds. Lloyd ed. Gauthier, David Ghosh, Eric Gray, John Green, Thomas Hill []. Greenawalt, Kent Gutmann, Amy Hampton, Jean Hayek, F.

Hobbes, Thomas []. Leviathan , Michael Oakeshott, ed. Oxford: Blackwell. Hobhouse, L. Hobson, J. Kant, Immanuel, []. Kavka, Gregory S. Keynes, John Maynard Kukathas, Chandran Kymlicka, Will Buddhist Metaphysics Brian Morris describes four varieties of Buddhist metaphysics, and questions whether they can form one coherent system of thought. Editorial: Reality Check by Rick Lewis. The Philosophy of Japanese Gardens Sailee Khurjekar says that size matters when it comes to horticulture. Boisvert considers how the first leads to the second. Expanding the Original Position to Animals Matthew Chalmers applies the political philosophy of John Rawls to creatures great and small.

Against Veganism Chris Belshaw makes the case for rearing animals for their meat and produce. Can it take us to a good place? Rawls posits two basic capacities that the individuals would know themselves to possess. First, individuals know that they have the capacity to form, pursue and revise a conception of the good, or life plan. Exactly what sort of conception of the good this is, however, the individual does not yet know. It may be, for example, religious or secular, but at the start, the individual in the original position does not know which. Second, each individual understands him or herself to have the capacity to develop a sense of justice and a generally effective desire to abide by it.

Knowing only these two features of themselves, the group will deliberate in order to design a social structure, during which each person will seek his or her maximal advantage. The idea is that proposals that we would ordinarily think of as unjust — such as that black people or women should not be allowed to hold public office — will not be proposed, in this, Rawls' original position, because it would be irrational to propose them. The reason is simple: one does not know whether he himself would be a woman or a black person. This position is expressed in the difference principle , according to which, in a system of ignorance about one's status, one would strive to improve the position of the worst off, because he might find himself in that position.

Rawls develops his original position by modelling it, in certain respects at least, after the "initial situations" of various social contract thinkers who came before him, including Thomas Hobbes , John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In social justice processes, each person early on makes decisions about which features of persons to consider and which to ignore. Rawls's aspiration is to have created a thought experiment whereby a version of that process is carried to its completion, illuminating the correct standpoint a person should take in his or her thinking about justice.

If he has succeeded, then the original position thought experiment may function as a full specification of the moral standpoint we should attempt to achieve when deliberating about social justice. In setting out his theory, Rawls described his method as one of " reflective equilibrium ," a concept which has since been used in other areas of philosophy. Reflective equilibrium is achieved by mutually adjusting one's general principles and one's considered judgements on particular cases, to bring the two into line with one another. Rawls derives two principles of justice from the original position. The first of these is the Liberty Principle, which establishes equal basic liberties for all citizens. Rawls argues that a second principle of equality would be agreed upon to guarantee liberties that represent meaningful options for all in society and ensure distributive justice.

For example, formal guarantees of political voice and freedom of assembly are of little real worth to the desperately poor and marginalized in society. Demanding that everyone have exactly the same effective opportunities in life would almost certainly offend the very liberties that are supposedly being equalized. Nonetheless, we would want to ensure at least the "fair worth" of our liberties: wherever one ends up in society, one wants life to be worth living, with enough effective freedom to pursue personal goals.

Thus participants would be moved to affirm a two-part second principle comprising Fair Equality of Opportunity and the famous and controversial [39] difference principle. This second principle ensures that those with comparable talents and motivation face roughly similar life chances and that inequalities in society work to the benefit of the least advantaged. Rawls held that these principles of justice apply to the "basic structure" of fundamental social institutions such as the judiciary, the economic structure and the political constitution , a qualification that has been the source of some controversy and constructive debate see the work of Gerald Cohen. Relational approaches to the question of justice, by contrast, seek to examine the connections between individuals and focuses on their relations in societies, with respect to how these relationships are established and configured.

Rawls further argued that these principles were to be 'lexically ordered' to award priority to basic liberties over the more equality-oriented demands of the second principle. This has also been a topic of much debate among moral and political philosophers. Finally, Rawls took his approach as applying in the first instance to what he called a "well-ordered society In Political Liberalism , Rawls turned towards the question of political legitimacy in the context of intractable philosophical, religious, and moral disagreement amongst citizens regarding the human good. Such disagreement, he insisted, was reasonable — the result of the free exercise of human rationality under the conditions of open enquiry and free conscience that the liberal state is designed to safeguard.

The question of legitimacy in the face of reasonable disagreement was urgent for Rawls because his own justification of Justice as Fairness relied upon a Kantian conception of the human good that can be reasonably rejected. If the political conception offered in A Theory of Justice can only be shown to be good by invoking a controversial conception of human flourishing, it is unclear how a liberal state ordered according to it could possibly be legitimate. The intuition animating this seemingly new concern is actually no different from the guiding idea of A Theory of Justice , namely that the fundamental charter of a society must rely only on principles, arguments and reasons that cannot be reasonably rejected by the citizens whose lives will be limited by its social, legal, and political circumscriptions.

In other words, the legitimacy of a law is contingent upon its justification being impossible to reasonably reject. This old insight took on a new shape, however, when Rawls realized that its application must extend to the deep justification of Justice as Fairness itself, which he had presented in terms of a reasonably rejectable Kantian conception of human flourishing as the free development of autonomous moral agency.

The core of Political Liberalism, accordingly, is its insistence that, in order to retain its legitimacy, the liberal state must commit itself to the "ideal of public reason. Political reasoning, then, is to proceed purely in terms of "public reasons. This is because reasons based upon the interpretation of sacred text are non-public their force as reasons relies upon faith commitments that can be reasonably rejected , whereas reasons that rely upon the value of providing children with environments in which they may develop optimally are public reasons — their status as reasons draws upon no deep, controversial conception of human flourishing.

Rawls held that the duty of civility — the duty of citizens to offer one another reasons that are mutually understood as reasons — applies within what he called the "public political forum. Campaigning politicians should also, he believed, refrain from pandering to the non-public religious or moral convictions of their constituencies. The ideal of public reason secures the dominance of the public political values — freedom, equality, and fairness — that serve as the foundation of the liberal state.

But what about the justification of these values? Since any such justification would necessarily draw upon deep religious or moral metaphysical commitments which would be reasonably rejectable, Rawls held that the public political values may only be justified privately by individual citizens. The public liberal political conception and its attendant values may and will be affirmed publicly in judicial opinions and presidential addresses, for example but its deep justifications will not. The task of justification falls to what Rawls called the "reasonable comprehensive doctrines" and the citizens who subscribe to them.

A reasonable Catholic will justify the liberal values one way, a reasonable Muslim another, and a reasonable secular citizen yet another way. One may illustrate Rawls's idea using a Venn diagram: the public political values will be the shared space upon which overlap numerous reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Rawls's account of stability presented in A Theory of Justice is a detailed portrait of the compatibility of one — Kantian — comprehensive doctrine with justice as fairness. His hope is that similar accounts may be presented for many other comprehensive doctrines.

This is Rawls's famous notion of an " overlapping consensus. Such a consensus would necessarily exclude some doctrines, namely, those that are "unreasonable," and so one may wonder what Rawls has to say about such doctrines. An unreasonable comprehensive doctrine is unreasonable in the sense that it is incompatible with the duty of civility. This is simply another way of saying that an unreasonable doctrine is incompatible with the fundamental political values a liberal theory of justice is designed to safeguard — freedom, equality and fairness. So one answer to the question of what Rawls has to say about such doctrines is — nothing.

For one thing, the liberal state cannot justify itself to individuals such as religious fundamentalists who hold to such doctrines, because any such justification would — as has been noted — proceed in terms of controversial moral or religious commitments that are excluded from the public political forum. But, more importantly, the goal of the Rawlsian project is primarily to determine whether or not the liberal conception of political legitimacy is internally coherent, and this project is carried out by the specification of what sorts of reasons persons committed to liberal values are permitted to use in their dialogue, deliberations and arguments with one another about political matters.

The Rawlsian project has this goal to the exclusion of concern with justifying liberal values to those not already committed — or at least open — to them. Rawls's concern is with whether or not the idea of political legitimacy fleshed out in terms of the duty of civility and mutual justification can serve as a viable form of public discourse in the face of the religious and moral pluralism of modern democratic society, not with justifying this conception of political legitimacy in the first place.

Rawls also modified the principles of justice as follows with the first principle having priority over the second, and the first half of the second having priority over the latter half :. These principles are subtly modified from the principles in Theory. The first principle now reads "equal claim" instead of "equal right," and he also replaces the phrase "system of basic liberties" with "a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties.

Although there were passing comments on international affairs in A Theory of Justice , it was not until late in his career that Rawls formulated a comprehensive theory of international politics with the publication of The Law of Peoples. He claimed there that "well-ordered" peoples could be either "liberal" or "decent. Rawls argued that the legitimacy of a liberal international order is contingent on tolerating decent peoples , which differ from liberal peoples , among other ways, in that they might have state religions and deny adherents of minority faiths the right to hold positions of power within the state, and might organize political participation via consultation hierarchies rather than elections.

However, no well-ordered peoples may violate human rights or behave in an externally aggressive manner. Peoples that fail to meet the criteria of "liberal" or "decent" peoples are referred to as 'outlaw states,' 'societies burdened by unfavourable conditions' or "benevolent absolutisms' depending on their particular failings. Such peoples do not have the right to mutual respect and toleration possessed by liberal and decent peoples. Rawls's views on global distributive justice as they were expressed in this work surprised many of his fellow egalitarian liberals. For example, Charles Beitz had previously written a study that argued for the application of Rawls's Difference Principles globally.

Rawls denied that his principles should be so applied, partly on the grounds that a world state does not exist and would not be stable. This notion has been challenged, as a comprehensive system of global governance has arisen, amongst others in the form of the Bretton Woods system , that serves to distribute primary social goods between human beings. It has thus been argued that a cosmopolitan application of the theory of justice as fairness is the more reasonable alternative to the application of The Law of Peoples, as it would be more legitimate towards all persons over whom political coercive power is exercised. According to Rawls however, nation states, unlike citizens, were self-sufficient in the cooperative enterprises that constitute domestic societies.

Although Rawls recognized that aid should be given to governments which are unable to protect human rights for economic reasons, he claimed that the purpose for this aid is not to achieve an eventual state of global equality, but rather only to ensure that these societies could maintain liberal or decent political institutions. He argued, among other things, that continuing to give aid indefinitely would see nations with industrious populations subsidize those with idle populations and would create a moral hazard problem where governments could spend irresponsibly in the knowledge that they will be bailed out by those nations who had spent responsibly.

Rawls's discussion of "non-ideal" theory, on the other hand, included a condemnation of bombing civilians and of the American bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II , as well as discussions of immigration and nuclear proliferation. He also detailed here the ideal of the statesman, a political leader who looks to the next generation and promotes international harmony, even in the face of significant domestic pressure to act otherwise.

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