Explain the role of the "veil of ignorance" in the work of John Rawls. (Caution: Read Rawls carefully. He's not talking about a system where everyone is equal.)
Do you think that hypothetical's like this are useful in determining just laws or the just allocation of resources, given that we'll never be able to replicate those conditions in government and decision making? Why or why not?
Any comments from John Stuart Mill's philosophy from his book "On Liberty"
P.S: choose any topic you would like to talk about from John Stuart Mill's philosophy from his book "On Liberty"
Q1. John Rawls and the 'Veil of Ignorance'
John Rawls is considered to be one of America's premier political philosophers in the 20th century. Born in 1921 in Maryland, he served as an infantryman in the Pacific theatre, under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. After earning his PhD on Moral Philosophy from Princeton in 1946, he then subsequently taught in Harvard, Cornell, MIT and Oxford. His contributions to political thought are many including the notion that justice equates to fairness, that public reason has to be contented with by any government, that there is such a thing as overlapping consensus and of course the 'veil of ignorance'. His most influential work is 'A Theory of Justice' (1971) where he explains 2 key concepts - original position and the veil of ignorance. Digital knowledge blogger, Shield (2013) explains this as follows, "Rawls asks us to imagine a fantastic scene: a group of people are gathered to plan their own future society, hammering out the details of what will basically become a Social Contract. Rawls calls this the 'Original Position'. In the Original Position, the future citizens do not yet know what part they will play in their upcoming society. They must design their society behind what Rawls calls the Veil of Ignorance."
On the Veil
Rawls (1971) explains this 'veil' as follows - "No one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like." People essentially have no idea what that future society will be - type, culture, economic state and its politics. But the planners use the veil to operate not for their self-interest and to restrict them from putting their designs on that society. For him, operating under the veil is the only justified way in planning a social contract, a future society. Using that original position as the motivating element of the social contract, the planners of that society can work towards ensuring that they themselves will have the tools necessary in that future society so that they can work towards creating a good and productive life for themselves and for their children. These necessary elements to be included are rights and liberties, powers and opportunities income and wealth and the necessary environment that fosters dignity and self-respect. These will then be distributed equally to all to ensure equal advantage unless otherwise unequal distribution is more advantageous for everyone concerned.
For me, Rawl's notion of the 'veil' is like a mechanism. In 'game theory', players play the game thinking always of getting some form of advantage. In essence, the 'veil of ignorance' is like a 'game' mechanism that all players, unknowing of their place in that future society, unknowing of that society's outcome and realities hedge their bets on the notion that when all plays fair, then they are likely to plan principles, policies, mechanisms, institutions and ideas that would empower them with social goods like liberties, wealth and social dignity so that they can have the tools to do good in their imagined society. Obviously, the question of ...
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