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Episode #137 ... John Rawls - A Theory of Justice

2019-12-30 | 🔗

Today we discuss the work of John Rawls. 

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West, this is philosophize. This lotta people have asked about t shirts and I want to give an update on that front. A few months ago I had a bunch of them screen printed, but the plan and making them available for everybody on the website, but short, after. I remembered why I don't really like seventy shirts long story short. Look, I'm not a big company, that's printing thousands of these shirts at a time, I'm one person and a condo, and because of this I am always limited the printing in smaller batches. Once I got them printed I remembered why other shows have to sell their shirts for twenty five thirty bucks. A shirt is to make it financially worth it to them, and I personally don't feel right doing that. What I don't it for there to be some hard core friend of the show out there. That would wear a shirt. They talk to their friends about the shirt they help spread the word but money the only thing preventing them from being able to do that for some is it just doesn't sit right with me so for the time being I'm not gonna, be selling t shirts, Can we giving them away to the best people? I can find
up with a way to be able to make the selection process as far as possible in here but I came up with if you have left Leave a review on Itunes or whatever platform you used to listen to the show. Syn an email with a link to your review or quoting a review and I'll choose twenty people. This episode from those emails to send t shirts to my email, Steve at Stephen West, showed outcome. Look forward to hearing from you think he was the kind people that support the shown patron could never do this without you today, but so does on John roles and his seminal work, a theory of justice. I hope you love the show today. So if you look at every philosopher, though we ve covered bar in the show it be very easy to describe the differences between each other works, but a much more difficult and illuminating question to ask is whether or not all the works of these very different philosophers have among them. He route similarities. Now, of course, you could say things like they all some sort of contribution to human thought. He could say they do.
I used language to express their big ideas, but another way to think about the answer to this question is to say that every group, philosopher, in their own way, questioned the funding. Mental assumptions that were present in the thinking of their time. That is a hallmark of a great philosopher. Because, when seeking solutions to philosophical problems, casting aside I'd the culture or linguistic assumptions of a particular snapshot in time very often leads philosophers of the next generation to understand how those assumptions have been limiting our ways of thinking about things, the full ass. If we're going to talk about today, falls into this category and he's gonna western an assumption that seem to others as rat, go as it was dangerous, his name was John roles, and this was something that he questioned. And human beings. Actually live and flourish for any extended period of time. In liberal democratic societies, the political paradigm of the enlightenment, liberal, democratic societies,
from by the many democracy liberal in the sense that there is a strong focus on rational discourse. The acceptance about I ideas the legitimacy of political ideas being decided by having conversations between competing ideas, but the best ideas rise to the top and direct the future, city for the time being and if Those prevailing ideas don't happen to be the ones you believe and you're supposed to accept those ideas as part of a greater political process and work to defend Europe's this means better the next time we're having a conversation. This was brand new way of conducting politics when it was proposed in the enlightenment and the assumption over the years by so many in the west has been that not only is this one of greatest inheritances from the enlightenment, dimension. They would say this is the absolute greatest political system that has ever been devised. John Brawls is gonna question? Those assumptions he's gonna. Ask whether or not liberal Attic societies might only be the greatest political system ever devised on paper. You might think of
There are political or economic theory. That sounds great on paper, but when actually put into practice you consider the nature of how human beings really behave. They failed time and time again will liberal democratic societies just another example of a delusional naive enlightenment era, ideal that can never actually work for any real link time. What roses Referencing is the long history of this type of society descending into various types of chaos, civil wars, fascism, class warfare, extreme violence between different groups exe. In wealth inequality. Dozens of more examples in the ultimate question brawls is getting to is this when you can under the track record of liberal democratic societies, no matter How good they sound on paper be. There is something about our nature as human beings that makes us effectively. Ink capable of existing in this type of society for any real link, the time we can play nice for a while, we can shake hands and disagree up to a point. But are we just him?
Well, they're always will there always be, point of disagreement, human beings, are willing to subvert the rational conversation in favour of using force to implement their ideas. Maybe this is how human beings engage with each other politically, maybe the last few hundred years has consisted of us having a bunch of mostly It was conversations punctuated by moments of chaos whenever a truly important political issue comes up where human beings have to actually act and force is how they choose to act generations from now, people look back on the way were conducting politics today and think of us all as naive lay them We believe they can just talk things through clear into this ideal from the enlightenment. That makes you feel really good, but doesn't ever we work in practice. Can Human beings only exist for any real link, the time anymore, tribal most of the time, nationalist political setting, So it should be said right off the bat that John all the answer to this question whether we can actually live for any length of time in these societies is yes, he is extremely optics
think about the future of liberal democratic society. He does not think we're all being naive, but despite him off We defending liberal democracy as we'll see his willingness to ask these tough questions about the ascent, since it we're making politically like so many other great philosophers, questioning assumptions that will cement his place in history, so this becomes the first major problem roles of space within his work has presented, but the long story of failures and liberal democratic society? And yet he remains. Grimly optimistic about liberal democratic society, ex question, any reasonable person has to ask is why has there been such a history of failure, if liberal them piracy, so great well. The answer to this question is that its largely Binny Miss placement of priorities. We claim to be creating societies that are just ones that won't lead, outcomes like these extreme tensions between groups, but never really had a truly substantive conversation about what we really mean when we say that- and we say things like liberty and justice for all, but what eggs
actually doing mean when we say society should be ensuring justice. This is not just an important question arose. This is the question. He's, a very famous quote: recess quote: justice is deferred. Virtue of social institutions, as truth is two systems of thought, what money means there is in the same way, you would judge the legitimacy of a system of ideas based on how true it is which the legitimacy of our social institutions based on how just they are now what is roles talking about when he references justice the lesser since he certainly talking about things like the criminal justice system or balancing of the scales within a society, but if you wanted, understand the scope of roses work? The farmer crucial version of justice. That he's talking about is what he calls distributive justice. The idea is this. We as individuals gather together in form groups, we call societies. We do this because it benefits us too
We worked together in groups were just far more efficient than is mere individuals, and because of this there's a lot surplus value created only exists because we're working together, the question becomes: how does this surplus value get allocated or how should it be distributed as in distributive justice, another name for the surplus values? What rules calls primary social goods and these feel good, certainly include obvious things like income power and wealth, but rules would want to point out that our teamwork, as a society produces value in other areas that are a lot less intuitive and These areas still need to be considered in this discussion, things like rights, liberties opportunities, etc. These these primary social goods are building blocks that rules are going to use to make his case is nineteen. Seventy one work a theory of justice kind of right there in the title, he's constructing a theory
of how we should distribute these trappings of society in the most just manner possible. Ross that justice can be created by making sure that we have just institutions. In other words, if these, structure of our society is just including our situation in laws, then we'll have a just society, so a bit of important contacts to understand where rules is coming from with all this. Is it he's doing his work in the modern, United States rules is a statistician, and he's looking at the numbers, and he sees a huge, disparity in the United States in terms of income inequality to him. This is a failure of the liberal, democratic societies of the past and their silence on the topic, distributive justice he wants to actually start having this conversation, anyone begin at one of the most simple questions he could possibly ask about justice. The question is should in qualities exist within a just society and charter
people out there. That would say that everybody should have the exact same thing, no matter how hard they work or what choices they make. Equality of outcome, is often a desirable into a person that holds this position, but rules would say no. The fact is these enough policies do exist within societies. In fact, there exists since is inevitable the real interesting Phyllis the whole discussion begins when we ask ourselves what type of Quality is just what makes these initial, it just in what a do. We used to determine that rules is looking at the numbers in the late sixties, United States, what he sees as it there actual billionaires and multimillionaires Simon. He's existing in a society with people who are homeless or an extreme poverty. Again, he wants to ask Just is this society, The same way. Somebody else might want to ask how true was a particularly from of ideas Can we say this is a just society with these two very different outcome, being possible. What
mediately evident start thinking about this question. Is there a lot of different ways? You could answer it? For example, somebody on the libertarian side of things could look at the homeless person next to the billinger, and they might say yes, this is a just state of affairs, because these people have made very different choices to get to where they are in life and, ultimately, that's a good thing for society. They may say: look it's the government's job to tell you how to live your life, the need we make this much money per year or working this many hours or the world. Is an unjust place. The government's jobs, set the rules of the game and enforce them? Your job is to learn how to play the game and figure out how you want to play it. Its own wants to be a street drifter more power to them. If someone I every second of their life. Otherwise, so they can see one billion dollars in the bank more power to them. We can't use income as a direct measurement of equality, because the more relevant different here is how these two are using their liberty rules might this person. What, if the billionaire
got all their money by going door to door with an army and saying give me all your money or I'll kill you until they got a billion dollars, certainly wouldn't see that as an example of justice, just because it hinged upon free choice and what I also want to do here is just call for a more nuanced definition of exactly justifies this inequality. Member his, biggest concern is that he doesn't want to stop short here. Two roles. Liberal democracy is the best system and can work for it to work, we need an exhaustive answer to this question, and maybe wherefore to start with his to say that perhaps an inequality, is just as long as it's me. On some sort of work or effort that somebody is putting rules would agree with this The question now becomes: how do we identify the instances where the inequality is based on effort and the ones words made possible only by some sort of unfair advantage, becomes a major question in a theory of justice, there's an interesting metaphor, for unfair advantages in the modern world that, when a roles as colleagues named Cohen offers- and it goes like this
say, humanity reaches a point where we have a level of technology that we can travel vast distances through space and colonise other planets one day and astronaut lands on one of these earth like planets plant. The flag and the ground and says this one's. My it's a couple years later astronaut too comes along in their ship breaks down. They need to find it to survive on the planet the planet's completely empty, except astronaut one in their little house for astronaut too, to ever be able to carve off even a sliver of an existence on this planet, they will always be at the mercy of astronaut won. The first astronaut will dictate all the terms of the agreements. The deal's will almost certainly always favour the first astronaut simply because the first astronaut happened to get there first this is a metaphor for how everybody enters into the world, who was born into inherited wealth power or opportunity by complete chance, Their lives are at the mercy of someone else was born into their place by complete chance, she can see
why it so important aroused a to further delineate between these inequalities that were arrived at because of work or effort and those made, possible by essentially winning the lottery winning the lottery. That moral arbitrariness is what makes it unfair to roles seat two roles- you're not entitled to things that are morally arbitrary best explain why he feels this way is to give the opposite example: but so you're driving down the road, obeying all the traffic loss. There's a cat they coming up on your right through some random confluence of events, some guy trips over a dog and spills, a glass of water on the floor, at which point when slips on the water and bumped into a chair, the chair falls over trips server and the server those flying into the street at the exact wrong time and, tragically, you hit the server and they die Now as a society, we would never think of you as a bad person. If that sort of thing happened, they just system would never take a consequence, was route there and throw you in prison. For the rest, your life hell technically somebody died bad luck
in other words, it would be wrong for anyone to think it was just for you to own. The concert whence of something that solely because of a horrible stroke of luck rules would say: when you're born into an estate. That's worth a billion dollars. You are equally not incomplete ownership of things that are only in your life because of a good stroke of luck but we'll see later. That doesn't mean it's necessarily the job of the government, to take it from me for Ross to be clear, you're, not a bad person for having the billion dollars things are morally arbitrary. You can't have all of car the point and and none of the bad or in other words, what this means for all and none of the just or that words? What into means for all this philosophy is that we need to decide on further criteria that determine how much of that inequality is just, and why probably a good point to state for the record that inequalities extend far beyond just money that you're born into people are and with all sorts of inequalities. You can be borne really smart. You could be born to a family that doesn't care about you
You could be born a really attractive person you could be bought when into an area that is horrible resources for public schools, and you have virtually no chance of excelling. You can be born to a family business where you're the heir apparent to taking Overman mom retires. You can have so much cry I'm in your area that even leaving the house in trying to do anything with your life is terrifying. We, are born, holding the stubs to this genetic cultural lottery that will dictate the parameters of our existence and walls would say that if we truly what the inequalities of our society to be based solely on a difference in work or effort. We, to be willing to not asked people to own the bad or good circumstances if they happen to be born into another problem with actually implementing anything along these lines should be obvious. Nobody was born into a great situation, is going to vote for a power see. That makes him give up the fruits of their advantages, and nobody born into a bad situation is going to vote for a policy that makes them live out the rest of their life, just excepting the consequences of what's is essentially a server folly in front of them
touches on a larger problem of passing any kind of meaningful social reform. Most of the time, people are going to vote, what benefits their particular demographic. Rich people vote, the most of the rich poor people, the interests of the poor and, again this fact. Stands to every advantage. Someone might have been born with, as reflected in the political process, so roses faced with another problem in his work? Even if we could figure which of these birthright advantages are just or unjust. How would we ever passed something this in a liberal democracy to solve this problem roles creates one of the most influential thought experiments of the twentieth century, his goal with the experiment is to show that the massive levels of inequality exists. In the modern, United States. Simply no better reason than because this aside, the already exists that way powerful into are already invested in the way that things are and meaningful social change, is very difficult to actually carry out the system being the way that it is. But he would ask what would society look like
if we had to start all over again, would be structure society in the exact same way what things play out exactly in the same way that they are now what if our position, when formulating this new society was not that of astronaut too, from our example, before instead, what if we were all simultaneously designing a society from the position of astronaut one that first day, that landed on the planet. This is what rules refers to. As the original position. Basically it's his version of the state of nature, now imagine raw standing around on this new planet formulating how society should be structured roles it's us to imagine a few other things as part of this thought, experiment. Imagine your structuring the society through what he calls a veil of ignorance or you are To decide how this society will be structured without knowing anything about your position within that society wants its founded UK. No, whether you're gonna be living in Beverly Hills or in the projects in New York City. You can't know your age, gender race,
sexual orientation. You can't know your. I q athletic ability or charisma? You can't know what kind of family you're gonna be born into Canada, whether you're gonna have some mental illness makes everyday miserable human beings have. The capacity to be rational, Rawls, wants to ask how rational beings, without it, vested interest in one group or another, create a society, but one thing for sure: Rawls thinks it wouldn't look anything like the modern, United States. Rational being- would look at the statistics and choose that structure, because it's much more likely for you to be born into one of the many millions that struggle for it, one of a handful of but with power and resources. In fact, Rawls thinks it people consider the lies that some people in the inner city are forced to live in parts of the United States. The very fact you could pick possibly get unlucky and be living. One of those lies is enough to make rash people want to restructure society. So how would national being structure it they would follow. What is known as the maximum rule or the idea
that we would pick the structure of a society that provides the boy situation for the least advantaged, within that society, in comparison to all other potential societies. Put another way. We pick the sea. Not were the worst case scenario for a person is the best out of all the other, possible worst case scenarios and other strategies Rational beings? Would do this because they No, whether or not there going to be the one in the the actual least advantaged person in the entire society does allow. Metaphors about this, but there's a petition the common one- and I guess I'll, just laid out here- imagine you're having a pizza party and your asked by the people at the party to cut up the pizza. However, you want the catches. You can't A witch piece of pizza is gonna, be yours. Until after you cut the pizza now you may cut up the peace and a bigger pieces and smaller pieces. If that's what you chose to do, but one thing for sure here: you're gonna cut the pizza in a way where, if you were to get the smallest piece it still
something you'd be satisfied receiving somebody might ask at this point but why isn't the obvious choice here? Just a cut every piece of pizza, the exact same size, a type of socialist pizza, cutting. Rules is not a fan of socialism; he respects what is trying to do He thinks it achieves equality at the expense of everyone guest. We're all equal under socialism, but we're all eat, at a lower standard of living than is possible in a restructured capitalist system, member? This is adhering to the maximum rule. What sister produces a worst case scenario for a citizen. That is the best two roles. The smallest piece of pizza and a revised capitalist structure is big. Than the equal pieces provided by socialism is just a bigger peace that we're coming from, but on the other and two roles, we can't just have laissez faire free market capitalism because doesn't take into account the moral arbitrariness of unfair, inherited advantages like intelligence status or wealth. The question for is this, how do we structure
capitalism in away where it is true Lee a rising tide? That's raising all the ships as opposed to just a few of them, but we can start by lay out the criteria John roles prescribes for determining which these inherited inequalities are just or fair. In fact, that's the way he describes it flow in the face of thousands of years of moral philosophy, joy This is not an eye for an eye. Justice is not total equality. Justice is fairness. Two roles What's an example of an inequality that exist. That is fair, but first it must adhere to strict rules. One Social and economic inequalities must first be to everyone's advantage and to such social and economic inequalities must be attached to positions that are equally open to all. So what the second rule rules trying to protect against any sort of system with different classes. People are born into, or even figurative classes positions in society reserved for a specific person or type of person, even if you're the least,
to banish person. You can still apply for the position doesn't mean you're gonna get. It just means that if there is an uneasy, position available? If we're going to accept that inequality is the structure of our society. It should be open to everyone to apply, but MRS referencing. Here is that historically there have been. Ray primary ways. People are blocked from prestigious positions in a society. One is legal were there actual legal barriers precluding a person from holding a position too is by your birth status, which would make disqualified from building a position because of something about how you were born, and the third road block is having the talent or effort to act. Be able to accept the position. Rawls thinks age society will stick to this third one, and it has only one that do can be said to have true equality of opportunity. Now, the first rule that these Inequalities must first be to everyone's advantage. This really is the cornerstone of what rules would eventually call his quote: system of liberal equality. End quote:
back to our person that inherited a billion dollars to illustrate what he means but say this person, inherits a billion dollars and thence in their life, investing in reinvesting that money to improve the world around them there tons of jobs for the less advantaged. The enemy technologies that improve the lives of the rest of the world they may offer scholarships? People the couldn't otherwise afford to go to school and recruit them to work for the companies. They built store fronts that improve communities, this is an example of an inequality that may exist, but it's everyone's advantage, so it is pie possible to inherit vast sums of money and still use it in a way that benefits others and makes it fair or just now other handed the same person took that billion dollars and just but it sit under a very large man trust for their entire life. Will that wouldn't be to everyone's advantage? And at this point, rules would be a fan of some type of heavy tax. To penalize the inaction, probably by some type of government redistribution to the less advantaged. But extends beyond just inherited money when Lebron James wins
the genetic lottery and his boy without let us ism and talent that warrants him, making tens of millions of dollars a year when he uses his ass. Let us ISM to achieve and exalted status as a cultural icon that initially Turkey is an example of justice because abilities go on display and provide entertainment for millions of people when someone's born with extreme intelligence, and they go on to graduate from a prestigious school and become the Tipp of the spear in some new research programme? There unequal pay mission within society, as I thought leader, is justified because their research will, like go on to improve the lives of the aggregate. This way of thinking but inequalities within a society is more oddly known as the difference principle or that we should remove inequalities within a society as much as we can until The removal of further inequalities would cause harm to least advantaged this is in contrast to the way we ve often thought about things before sometimes called of the efficiency principle. The idea that
should find people in society that need help and help them as much as we can until helping would cause harm to someone else. This is a completely different area. Focus the folk for rules is always on ensuring the most we can for the least advantaged person as law, is that insurance doesn't prevent us from. Can limiting to society. Based on that, sentence it shouldn't be too far of a leap to reveal that what rules is all what doing with all this is provided? philosophical justification for a modern, progressive income tax. We all have different. Talents and abilities. Take an example, the people who will You have to be born with extreme intelligence, who were also lucky to be born into a family that nurtured that intelligence, who are also lucky not to be born into an area where they had low crime and decent public schools, who also had the money and freedom to go to college were also healthy. Enough to not be in it out of the hospital, their whole life, this person, who would without a doubt, be an extremely impressive individual
standing on the shoulders of giants the contribution of everyone in society has made anything that they ever accomplish even possible how much less this person could have accomplished if they had to grow all their own food or didn't have roads to efficiently travel on red, constantly keep watch to fend off criminals through our own individual skill sets. We all look at each other in a way. This is why we want to incentivize people to become as talented as they possibly can to roles We want to allow for unequal positions of pay or status, but the difference in my or status is only justifiable if that difference is used to benefit the least advantaged among us or people like them. The difference principle so these two rules that we talked about for what makes an inequality just that it must b to everyone's advantage and be available when a position open to all what these two things ultimately boils down to is a quality, opportunity and the different principle. These two things combined make up the tab.
That we have to run inequalities through to make sure that the inequality is just and Rolls thinks it actionable way to apply. This is simply to start looking around at society, findings apples of inequalities and put them to the test. You know feeling I get from reading a theory of justice is that we shouldn't be thinking of the least advantaged within society. As this annoying faceless pest, that's just sucking out. Disproportionate amount of resources, the since I get from leading roles is anyway just to be thinking about members of our society, more likely about members of our family, because maybe your family, you have some variation of a tradition and everybody its together and goes over the Grandma Beatrice House for the holidays right now, grandma's getting older these days he's a hundred seven years old, doesn't get around as well as she used to she can't spend fifteen. Where's toiling over a hot stove anymore? So what do we do? The kids all get together and you cook the meal for her these days and when it comes time for dinner and everyone sitting at the time,
there's an unspoken agreement that everybody in the family gets first before anyone get seconds. Wouldn't give grandma table scraps it. She could barely survive on and why Imagine it's something to do with the fact that she had my parents my parents had me strange way. Nothing that I have ever done in my life would be even possible without this woman and the contribution that she's made rules might say so too with every member of our society. Even the least advantaged. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-07.