In Rawls' A Theory of Justice, what is the original position?  

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The original position in one in which, for the purposes of Rawls's thought experiment, everyone is kept behind a veil of ignorance. This means that we are unaware of our gender, race, social position, or any other factor which might determine our place in society. It is in this original position that the all-important choice as to what kind of society we wish to see established should be made.

Rawls is convinced that, if we occupied the original position, we would naturally opt for a fair and just society. This is because, on Rawls's account, the original position provides us with an impartial point of view. As part of this thought experiment Rawls invites us to imagine that we are all free and equal people jointly committed to principles of social and political justice. Once we've done this, then Rawls believes that we will make what he regards as an appropriately rational choice, choosing to live in a society in which freedom and equality of opportunity are maximized to the greatest possible extent.

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The original position is the perspective that a hypothetical creator of a society must adopt in order to ensure that the society will be just.

Rawls argues that a just society would be one that was devised by someone who was in the original position.  This person would have to set up the society without knowing what position he or she would have in it.  Such a person would set up a society where even the poorest and least privileged people would have basic rights and would have enough to live on.  The person in the original position would do this because he/she might potentially end up with the lowest status in the society.

The original position, then, is the perspective of the hypothetical person who is creating a society but does not know what place he or she will hold in that society.  Of course, this is not meant as a description of something that has actually happened in human history.  Instead, it is meant as a way of evaluating the justice of a given society's basic systems.

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