Thursday, July 1, 2010

264: John Rawls

If Fukuyama is right and the only remaining functional system of government is a liberal one, then we could turn to John Rawls (1921 -2002) as the modern philosopher of Liberalism.

Rawls is certainly one of the most important political philosophers, especially regarding liberalism. His philosophical roots touch philosophers like Rousseau, Locke and Kant.

For that reason you may call him the contemporary Social Contract philosopher and with respect to his ethics a constructivist. This means that he argues that moral principles are 'constructed' out of basic actions and reactions.

Not out of drives and desires like the Utilitarians do, but in the Kantian sense, who refers to actions and reactions with his Categorical Imperative….can you make you action into a general law?

Thus In this century, John Rawls has recast natural rights theories of the social contract to argue for a liberal egalitarian conception of justice.

From a position of equality, where each person abstracts from knowledge of their historical situations, it is rational for all to agree on principles of justice that guarantee equal basic freedoms and resources adequate for each person’s independence.

To arrive at such principles he devised a thought experiment, which he called the "veil of ignorance". It means that people should discuss these principles without any specific and historical knowledge of each other.

For instance, one should not know The race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, wealth, natural endowments, comprehensive doctrine, etc. of any of the citizens in society, or to which generation in the history of the society these citizens belong.

Things like that. One only should know some sociological, psychological and economical theories. What would emerge would certainly be the need for justice in society as a basic rule: justice interpreted as fairness.

Its main principles afford equal rights to certain basic liberties and opportunities and regulate distributions of wealth and access to social positions so that they benefit everyone, with primary attention given to those least advantaged.

In A Theory of Justice (1971) he makes the case that differences in talents and abilities among persons, whether natural or cultural in origin, are ‘morally arbitrary’;

that is, they are products of luck either in the genetic lottery or in the milieu into which one happens to be born. In either case, the differences are not chosen or produced by actions for which the relevant agents can reasonably be held responsible.

By the same token, it seems unfair that benefits should accrue to persons differentially in virtue of differences in their talents and abilities, whether such differences are rooted in nature, culture or both.

It is interesting to see, what kind of people live in Rawls egalitarian liberal world. One of his basic assumptions is that the human being is a reasonable being.

Reasonableness is conceived of as a fundamental moral category, not reducible to rationality. One can be fully rational, by acting best to promote one’s interests, and still be unreasonable.

A reasonable person respects the needs and interests of others and is not prone to overreaching. To be reasonable is to be responsive to the individual reasons of others.

It involves a willingness to limit one’s expectations and constrain one’s actions and ends by rules that respect the legitimate pursuits of others. Reasonableness also includes a willingness to justify one’s actions by reasons others could publicly endorse in uncoerced general agreement.

Reasonableness is not altruism. One can be unreasonably altruistic, by promoting a majority’s interests while undermining the needs of the few.

Reasonable persons are equitably fair-minded; they regulate their acts in ways that respect everyone’s basic interests.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of the elaborate theories of John Rawls, but they are too complex and details to discuss them here. You find a perfect article on him here:

Like many of the liberal thinkers since Hobbes and Locke, Rawls too seems to be convinced of the basically positive qualities of human nature. When we combine this with the growth of the number of (liberal)democracies in the world……

then we could conclude, that we aren't that bad at all eventually. Just give us some time.

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: So much on John Rawls
[13:22] Jerome Ronzales: and the end of the iceberg..
[13:22] herman Bergson: If you have a question or remarks...feel free,,the floor is yours
[13:22] Daruma Boa: *•.¸('*•.¸ ♥ ¸.•*´)¸
[13:22] Daruma Boa: .•*♥¨`•APPLAUSE!!!°•´¨` ♥.
[13:22] Daruma Boa: ¸.•*(¸.•*´ ♥ `*•.¸)`*•.¸
[13:22] Daruma Boa: Hey!
[13:22] herman Bergson: What do you mean Jerome?
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: Is "reasonableness" a "talent or ability" possesssed by some more than others?
[13:23] herman Bergson: Rawls has elaborated theories on how social debate should work for instance...
[13:23] Jerome Ronzales: i mean that with the assumption of the Rawls theory we should have a wondefull place for the living...
[13:23] herman Bergson: Well Repose that is the very issue I feel uncomfortable with...
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: It is amusing to discover how disillusioned folks are when it comes to the fact of their own selfishness or rather their denial of it
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: yes ㋡
[13:24] herman Bergson: That could be true indeed Jerome..
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:24] Jerome Ronzales: not just could as it really is in practize!
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle....are we the children of Hobbes of Locke ㋡
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes I agree jerome....
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: it is like there is some evil in self interest
[13:26] herman Bergson: For that we need to look at Ayn Rand
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: oh wow yes
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: lo ari likes her a lot tho
[13:26] herman Bergson: She will be in the lecture of next Thursday...dont worry ㋡
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: oh oh
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:26] Jerome Ronzales: ㋡
[13:27] herman Bergson: But this reasonableness of Rawls....his basic assunmption....
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: and I do agree with her in some ways, however i is easy to sit and direct others to forfeit their wealth so others may survive, seems anti-darwin
[13:27] herman Bergson: As such it is a mental contruct to me.....
[13:27] herman Bergson: is it human nature too?
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: we live our lives on a moral axis, Prof
[13:28] Jerome Ronzales: no?
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: if we are truly moral, then charity should be voluntary
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: I'd say it is...
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: well in most cases it is
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: aaa true
[13:28] Jerome Ronzales: i disagree
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: oh?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Disagree with what jerome?
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: mandated charity is not charity at all
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: well who mandates it
[13:29] Jerome Ronzales: with last part of Aristotle sentence and all next
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: hmm
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: social governments for one
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: mandate charity?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Are they social governments or do they what a government has to provide protection for the individual
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: that is not charity
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: redistribution of wealth for moral reasons requires us to honor others morals as correct
[13:31] herman Bergson: What is charity....providing education?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Subsidizing cultural events?
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: its tax deductable
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: i think charity is free giving to a group to provide for others who need help ...
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: morals make a universal claim on us..
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: providing education is basic to not only collective success but individual succes as well
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: but you choose to give or not give
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: an enlightened society affords me a better standard of living
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: to me providing education is a duty of the government not a charity
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: charity*
[13:32] herman Bergson: But a lot what was charity in 1900 is now a task of the government?
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: education is not charity, I do not thin, it is better for me if all are educated
[13:33] herman Bergson: Taking care of the poor and less gifted...
[13:33] herman Bergson: IN fact what Rawls wants too
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: taking from me and giving to someone less fortunate is immoral
[13:34] Jerome Ronzales: i thought they were applying Rawls Theory in Haiti, any news from it?
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: me giving to someone less fortunate is very moral
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: yes ari
[13:35] herman Bergson: If it is the duty of a government to redistribute wealth taking from you is not immoral Aristotle
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: it all comes down to reason, I believe….what collective things are good for our individual survival
[13:35] herman Bergson: Not paying your taxes is immoral then
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: but i still think it is in your interest for the government to provide basic need for those who cannot is necessary
[13:35] Loo Zeta: depends ig tax moral
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: no, once you force someone to forfeit their wealth it is tantamount to thievery
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: and we agree to that by living here
[13:36] Loo Zeta: poll tax was not
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes..if it were only to prevent them from going out and steal from others
[13:36] Jerome Ronzales: basically
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: anyone who pays taxes should receive the same amount of services in return
[13:36] Jerome Ronzales: i agree with that
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: me too lol
[13:36] Daruma Boa: true ari
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: aa
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:37] herman Bergson: DOnt you get the same amount Aristotle?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Health care, education, infra structure of you country,,,,etc
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: Irac for example, none of those folks have paid one dime in taxes, yet they have a lot of my tax money
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: Iraq
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: blame the idiots who went in there
[13:38] herman Bergson: That is a political choice of your government...
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: not the Iraqis
[13:38] Beertje Beaumont: they didn't ask for your tax money
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes repose...
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: that is not charity either lol i agree ari with that!!!
[13:39] herman Bergson: We ave Dutch soldiers in Aphganistan....same story
[13:39] Loo Zeta apologise for lateness and making an idiot of myself on son's laptop
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: still it is the same premise, forcefully requiring taxpayers to donate their wealt to anotheres moral cause
[13:39] Loo Zeta: and the UK too
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: well that is not charity!!! or a donation!!
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: the cause of the society, determined by democratic procxess
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...that IS Rawls theme....
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: i try to think that all my taxes go for roads and infrastructure here and no wars
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: it it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck
[13:40] herman Bergson: How to yet find a common base for so many people with so many different views
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: very hard
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: especially in this huge country
[13:41] herman Bergson: In the Stanford Article you find an elaborate description of Rawls theories
[13:41] herman Bergson: It is however highly abstract...
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: as long as another person is in charge of writing checks when they are not making deposits it is be the same
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: you oppose social organization, then
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: '?
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: not at all, it is necessary for a higher standard of living
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: hmmm....
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: but democracy is not a moral methodology
[13:43] herman Bergson: The only thing I can say is that I am not satisfied with the theories of Rawls...
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: maybe the Rand lecture will illuminate some of this...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: We'll see...
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: all human process is fundamentally moral
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: if it is related to "the heart"
[13:44] Loo Zeta: goodness no
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: an alphabet soup of morality
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: democracy, too
[13:45] herman Bergson: What I find unsatisfactory are the basic assumptions of Rawls and how he uses them to 'proof' his theories
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what is for lunch
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: oh dear
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:45] herman Bergson: that is democrazy Aristotle
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: the alternative to democracy, then? ㋡
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: not that i disagree ㋡
[13:46] Jerome Ronzales: democracy is deciding which wolf will u feed
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: a science project that will altar human nature :)
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: ohhh...ok
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: would be nice
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: aa turni all bad guis into good guys or something
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: until then, though
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: guys
[13:46] herman Bergson: That is under way in the neurobiological developments these days
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: leave some bad girls LOL
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: *Giggles insanely*
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: ╔╗╔═╦╗
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: ║╚╣║║╚╗
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: ╚═╩═╩═╝
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: omg
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:47] Jerome Ronzales: lol
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: just girls?
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: LMAO
[13:47] Loo Zeta: Going to show 17 yr son this conversation... came to the conclusion there was no democracy after the last election
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: :-) repose
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: nah also parrots
[13:48] herman Bergson: If our mind are drifting in the direction of (bad) girls , I think we'd better come to an end now ㋡
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: smiling
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:48] herman Bergson: So, may I thank you for your participation again....
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: hope to see you all thursday
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: Herman
[13:48] Daruma Boa: thank uuu
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ill try
[13:48] Bruce Mowbray: Thank you, Professor!
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: ah thank YOU professor
[13:48] Jerome Ronzales: well, this would be just the turnover of womans in the mans world
[13:48] Daruma Boa: i hope i will be in time on thursday. cos i have an exhibition
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: thanks, Professor Bergson
[13:49] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...
[13:49] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:49] Beertje Beaumont: dankjewel Herman
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: nice Herman
[13:49] herman Bergson: glimlacht naar Beertje
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy begrijpt het
[13:49] Loo Zeta: thanks.... but apologise working Thurs night shift :(
[13:49] Jerome Ronzales: happy Hollydays herman
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: I will have to make the Thurs class :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: thank you jerome...
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: cu all
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: see u all next time
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: But Thursday is still on...
[13:50] Daruma Boa: byyyeee
[13:50] herman Bergson: The final lecture of this project
[13:50] Jerome Ronzales: bye
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: cu
[13:50] Jerome Ronzales: nice class
[13:50] Jerome Ronzales: ㋡
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: thanks again Herman, as always I leave with more than I came with :)
[13:51] herman Bergson: Thank you Aristotle
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: aa always some new things thaty come to mind
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: see you Thursday, bye all
[13:51] herman Bergson: Till then Aristotle

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