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John Rawls (1921-2002) was an American moral philosopher who taught at Harvard. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.

John Rawls

John Rawls, American moral philosopher


Sources: goodreads, AZ quotes, Wikiquote, BrainyQuote, Wikipedia, YouTube, A Theory of Justice (1971), Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (1991)


This theory is a device of representation or, alternatively, a thought-experiment for the purpose of public- and self-clarification. We are to think of it as modeling two things: fair conditions and acceptable restrictions. 6.4

Further, threats of force and coercion, deception and fraud, and so on must be ruled out. So far, so good. These considerations are familiar from everyday life. 6.2

The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts. What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.

The sense of justice is continuous with the love of mankind.

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.

The bad man desires arbitrary power. What moves the evil man is the love of injustice.

Certainly it is wrong to be cruel to animals and the destruction of a whole species can be a great evil. The capacity for feeling of pleasure and pain and for the form of life of which animals are capable clearly impose duties of compassion and humanity on their case.

In constant pursuit of money to finance campaigns, the political system is simply unable to function. Its deliberative powers are paralyzed.

All citizens should share in a society’s wealth and be given equal economic opportunities.

In a just society, rational individuals under a veil of ignorance about their original position in the society should endorse a theory that: gives everyone as much liberty as possible, allows for the unequal distribution of wealth only when the existence of such inequalities benefits everyone and is accessible to everyone.

Many of our most serious conflicts are conflicts within ourselves. Those who suppose their judgements are always consistent are unreflective or dogmatic.

It is of first importance that the military be subordinate to civilian government.

Thus I assume that to each according to his threat advantage is not a conception of justice.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.

Ideally citizens are to think of themselves as if they were legislators and ask themselves what statutes, supported by what reasons satisfying the criterion of reciprocity, they would think it most reasonable to enact.

The democratic political process is at best regulated rivalry; it does not even in theory have the desirable properties that price theory ascribes to truly competitive markets.

Universal suffrage is an insufficient counterpoise; for when parties and elections are financed not by public funds but by private contributions, the political forum is so constrained by the wishes of the dominant interests that the basic measures needed to establish just constitutional rule are seldom properly presented.

Everyone is presumed to act justly and to do his part in upholding just institutions.

A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.

An opinion that all members of a society might reasonably agree to, not necessarily that they would agree to.

Ideal legislators do not vote their interests.

Clearly when the liberties are left unrestricted they collide with one another.

Our hope for the future of our society rests on the belief that the social world allows a reasonably just Society of Peoples.

A just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you’d be willing to enter it in a random place.

A society regulated by a public sense of justice is inherently stable.

The only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of a better one; analogously, an injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice.

The fault of the utilitarian doctrine is that it mistakes impersonality for impartiality.

The fundamental criterion for judging any procedure is the justice of its likely results.

… Since we view society as a fair system of cooperation, the basis of equality is having to the requisite minimum degree the moral and other capacities that enable us to take part fully in the cooperative life of society. 7.3



COMMENTS

Perhaps it is the writing tradition of philosophers to write complex sentences that convolute back on themselves, and they do this to prevent others from criticizing the writing because the author didn’t cover every possibility in every sentence. In reading John Rawls’s Justice as Fairness, I became annoyed and then distraught, because it appeared to me that he was building castles in the air that were uninhabitable by real human beings. I then went to the index and searched for any ideas that could be linked to enforcement of any kind for his theories, but there were none except for social agreement among morally elevated angels. “… Since we view society as a fair system of cooperation, the basis of equality is having to the requisite minimum degree the moral and other capacities that enable us to take part fully in the cooperative life of society. 7.3″ He seeks for a philosophy for us to live in a perfectly moral heaven populated by angels. Early on he writes, “Further, threats of force and coercion, deception and fraud, and so on, must be ruled out. So far, so good. These considerations are familiar from everyday life. 6.2” To the degree that it is true of everyday life it is because of social restraints we put upon each other in our social interactions, and that coupled with the enforcement of laws by the force of the state. These are not created by the better angels of our nature, but rather by constraints placed upon us.

I went away from my reading of John Rawls dissatisfied, because I felt there was not even the remote possibility of the workability of his theoretical system, because his system wasn’t confronting the reality of human nature or of even rudimentary social interactions of any life form. He intentionally ignores the obvious fact that living things struggle to the death to support their own self interest and lives. He was projecting his fantasies of a perfect heaven inhabited with perfect public-interested angels onto a real world of self-interested human beings and self-interested organizations. A more functional philosophy of human interaction and ultimately of personal security was created by Alfred Thayer Mahan. Organized force alone enables the quiet and the weak to go about their business and to sleep securely in their beds, safe from the violent without or within. If one is interested in helping a social organization function better, their time is much better spent reading Mahan, or Great by Choice,by Jim Collins. These are philosophies of real world accomplishment, not speculation.

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