Tuesday, February 24

Criticisms on Rawls Justice Theory

Here is my summarized version of the criticism on Rawls "Theory of Justice" from:-
A critique of John Rawls Principle of Justice – Leonard Choptiany
A refutation of Rawls Theorem – Robert Paul Wolff

Rawls position on his principles was that they will be freely accepted by rational egoist in “contract situation”. But contract doctrines tread a narrow path between empirical fact and theoretical construction. For example, Fredrich Hayek’s “market as a free political mechanism” does not make clear how agreeing to egoist makes an institution just. Rawls reasoning for the contract doctrine is that, the principles account for strictness of justice because of the supposition that they arose from agreement among free and independent people.

Choptiany comments that neither equality nor the difference principles are sufficient as principles of justice because there is no specification of the size of allowed inequality for the difference principle. Apart from criticism of the principles, Choptiany criticizes the derivation of Rawls principles.

Rawls based his principle on the uncertainty of members of society on their role and hence each member would not propose a principle which is advantageous to themselves. However according to Wolff, if the members are rational (as proposed by Rawls) “equality of opportunity” principle would not necessarily be adopted because they would know their relative talents from others and hence the less able will opt for “random-selection principle” and the more able for “fair-competition principle”. Therefore, Rawls principle will be adopted based on probability which means that it no longer is a unanimous choice.

Wolff’s argument is weakened if these contractees did not know their distribution of talents as Rawls suggests. However, though there is uncertainty in contract situation the contractees know that the “veil of ignorance” will sooner or later be lifted and hence they would eventually know about the distribution. Therefore, the rational egoist will eventually adopt a new strategy to maximize his interest alone. This means that the contractees will have two strategies, an agreed strategy (like one of Rawls principle) for the contract situation and a 2nd strategy to secure egoists advantage. Even if each contractee knows about the eminent reversibility to 2nd strategy and hence maximize the security of all (maximin), the strategy in contract situation need not necessarily be carried out in practice because any post-contractual residual will be to the advantage of each egoist.

The maximin principle is analogous to Laplacean principle of insufficient reason which is a non-egoist commitment (moral stance). Thus Rawls rational egoists cannot implement maxmin principle without adhering to such moral stance.

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