Are Rawls’ principles of justice those we would choose under conditions of fairness?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rawls developed his principles of justice to fall between the laissez faire and egalitarian extremes. Egalitarian principles affirm and promote the ideology that everyone is equal. Laissez faire on the other hand affirms the view that people should be free to chart their own path and suggests that people are not equal and nature should be allowed to run its course.

Rawls asserts that it is possible to develop a society where the people blend their inherent equality and inequalities for the benefit of the society. To develop his view of justice, Rawls, considered an individual who in their original position knows nothing with regards to their position in society, their abilities or other differentiating aspects. In this original state, the individual would be considered unbiased and given everyone else shares the same state then, equality among the people will be established. The social contract created by the individual within such a society will be based on fairness to ensure full benefits of the system. Thus in order to develop a fair society, Rawls suggests that individuals need to reduce their level of bias in order to enhance their level of rationality. In this state the individual would attempt to establish a society based on the two principles;

  1. Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others.
  2. Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:

a)      Reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage and

b)      Attached to positions and offices open to all.

Under conditions of fairness the above principles should be applied.