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5 months ago
What are the criticisms of Rawl's theory of justice?
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Business and Its Environment
Edition: 7th
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One form of criticism centers on whether all individuals in the original position would choose the same principles and, if so, whether they would choose Rawls's principles rather than some other principles. For example, if the first principle is to take precedence over the second, then the most extensive basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others could be viewed as implying the neoclassical liberalism principle of a minimal role for government. Rawls, however, concludes that the role of government is extensive.
Another criticism centers on Rawls's conclusion that in the original position, once liberties and equal opportunity have been assured, society would choose institutions that provide the maximum benefit to the least advantaged. Some critics have argued that this principle would not be chosen in the original position because the chance of any one person being the least disadvantaged is minuscule.
Harsanyi (1}  argues that in the original position people would choose a principle corresponding to average rule utilitarianism, since that maximizes the expected well-being of each person when in the original position. Rawls's use of primary goods as a means of assessing the advantages of individuals is also subject to the same criticisms as is interpersonal comparisons of utility.
As with utilitarianism and rights theories, a conceptual and applied difficulty in justice theories pertains to how duty is to be assigned. The issues pertaining to basic liberties are similar to those previously addressed in the analysis of Kant's system.
Nozick (1}  argues that any response to the least advantaged should rest with the free choice of individuals who may, if they so choose, contribute to the well-being of others. Private charity is one reflection of this principle.
Nozick also observes that Rawls's theory pertains to a time slice in which the allocation of rewards and burdens of society must necessarily be judged by end results and independently of history. That is, to apply the difference principle, the positions of people must be evaluated at a point in time, and Rawls does not inquire into how people came to be in those positions. Nozick argues that how individuals arrived at their current positions is important from a moral perspective.
Nozick also argues that Rawls's system of justice is necessarily patterned according to characteristics of individuals or their situations, as required in the application of the difference principle. Whatever form of patterning is used, Nozick argues, must interfere with basic liberties.
This, he argues, means that no action can satisfy both Rawls's equal liberty principle and the difference principle.
Although Rawls's theory has been criticized on a variety of dimensions, it remains an important philosophical work and provides a useful framework for reasoning about managerial problems. His theory brings together several considerations, including liberties, opportunities, and well-being, that ethical intuitions recognize as important. It also provides a degree of prioritization that can be used in resolving conflicts.
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