Elucidations: Prev Next

Rawls’ political philosophy

  • “Completing” the contract theory of justice started by Hobbes, developed by Locke / Rousseau / Kant.
  • Most influential modern political philosopher.

Non-contractural theory

Most theories are contractural but not Sen’s.

  • Don’t think pursuit of justice involves looking for the perfectly just world.
    • Issues of injustice:
      • people who need medicine that can be cheaply produced
      • children not being educaiton
      • tons of other ways. Addressing these individually won’t create a perfectly just world
  • We can aspire to a perfectly just institution without guaranteeing a perfectly just world
    • The latter also depends on people’s behavior/natures.
      • E.g. if people are incorruptable, then more socially trusting institutions become feasible.
  • Seeking a perfect world will not help us rank all of the imperfect worlds we have as more promixate options.
    • Neither necessary nor sufficient to have a particular target.
      • Do we have no basis for saying something is unjust?
        • Example: you’re in a sauna and the temperature keeps going up. Once you feel in danger, you try to leave but the door is locked. Someone outside sees but can’t open the door either. But he does have access to the temperature control. You ask him to lower and he says “what is the ideal temperature you want” which you don’t know. He could object that without a principled goal, all there is arbitrary gut reaction (the point: gut reaction is important)

Many kinds of Justice

There are many kinds of justice, not a single scale:

  • Liberty, fairness, reducing inequality, removing poverty
  • For Rawls, these all matter but he strictly orders them in importance like above
    • More natural to trade off, like a small concession in liberty could be worth a huge reduction in poverty

Response at the time

Concern of advocating societal change without a goal:

  • E.g. “reduce inequality”, but if there is no stopping point, then this could head towards a situation worse than the current one (even when the current one has too much inequality).