Rawl's "A Theory of Justice": Defining the Fairness Theory

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Rawls’ attempt to define justice as fairness within the confines of the original position in A Theory of Justice establishes a deontological ethic. Rawls’ theory prioritizes individual liberty with equality to illustrate the deficiencies of utilitarianism. Despite criticism from Sandel, Rawls’ justice as fairness theory adequately defends a redistributive system for the entire society while addressing the inequality of luck.

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls attempts to provide an alternative to belief in utilitarianism and intuitionism with the justice as fairness theory. Rawls defines justice as fairness as the choices made in the original position, saying, “They are the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality defining the fundamental terms of their association...This way of regarding the principles of justice we shall call justice as fairness.”(10) By assuming people in the original position could only make rational, unbiased judgements, Rawls claims principles reached in this position would be the most just. Considering the veil of ignorance creates a lack of knowledge about individual positions and personal conceptions of the good, choices in the original position are limited in ability to unfairly distribute economic and political advantages. Although named justice as fairness, Rawls theory does not attempt to redistribute primary goods among all member of society, rather it only attempts to show how the principles chosen in the original principle would benefit all members of society. With the introduction of the original position, Rawls intends to show how justice as fairness is a more attractive choice than utilitarianism.

In defin...

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... equality would be chosen under the original position. Rawls’ justice as fairness doctrine redistributes wealth and opportunity to combat the fickle nature of luck. Although justice as fairness may not solve the conflict between the rights of the citizen and the welfare of the society, Rawls’ underlying principles and rejection of utilitarianism emphasizes a public conception of good for a mutually cooperative society.

Works Cited

Freeman, Samuel, "Original Position", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009. Edward N. Zalta ed..

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Print.

Sandel, Michael J. "The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self." Political Theory 12.1 February, (1984): 81-96. Web. 22 Mar. 2011.
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