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JWU PHIL 3240 - Rawls, Kant, and Justice

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ReferencesAcosta 1Lorraine AcostaPHIL32406 October 2019Rawls, Kant, and JusticeAs different as they are, John Rawls’ and Immanuel Kant’s political theories both derive principles for social justice. In fact, Rawl’s theory is based on the Kantian method. Kant and Rawls came from different times. Rawls is a contemporary philosopher that developed his theoryfor modern industrialized, democratic countries while Kant’s lifetime was during the 18th century,when absolutism ran politics in Europe (Domjahn, 2006). Kant, however, was not a political philosopher. His publications, including the three critiques: Pure Reason, Practical Reason, and Judgement, were mainly involved with moral philosophy, aesthetics, and epistemology; it wasn’t until later in his career that he published some political pieces (Domjahn, 2006). In contrast, Rawls actually is the political philosopher. There sure is a difference in their systematic and historical backgrounds, but Kantian roots are certainly implicit in Rawl’s theory and his goal is torevitalize Locke’s, Kant’s, and Rousseau’s theory and expand it further. Kant claims that the people’s consent is not an empirical fact but a hypothetical consent. So, basically, a law would be considered just is the citizens would give their consent if asked. This approach is a test for the legislator if a law is just and legitimate (Kersting 1993, p. 344). Rawls develops a more sophisticated version of this idea. He doesn’t want to test just one law here and there; he wants to test the entire basic structure of society, meaning all important publicAcosta 2institutions. Essentially, his thesis states that a society is just if equal, free, rational citizens would choose this model (Rawls 1975, p. 27). Rawls introduces a concept called “veil of ignorance” to reach this choice situation. The veil of ignorance does not include all individual information about the people that have to pick a fair constitution, this way, everyone is equal (Domjahn, 2006). This ensures that rational agents will make decisions based on universal preferences rather than personal ones (Sattig 1985, p. 104) therefore benefiting the larger population rather than certain individuals. Rawls said himself, “The combination of mutual disinterest and the veil of ignorance achieves the same purpose as benevolence. For it forces eachperson to take the goods of others into account” (Rawls 1999, p. 128).Kant similarly states that “if the institutional design is ‘good men do not need to be morally good because through law they have to be at least good citizens’” (1795, p. 223). This comparison in ideas confirms that Rawls and Kant have the same approach to obtain principles of justice; they are both based on the idea of hypothetical social contracts. While Rawls modeled his position in a more systematic and detailed way, his basic argument is the same as Kant’s: “a state is just is free and rational individuals would give their consent in a fair procedure. Rawls’ first principle (equal liberties) is almost identical to Kant’s law philosophy. The first condition of Rawls’ second principle (equal opportunities) has the same propensity as Kant’s claim of equal chances, however, he stretches his definition. The state must help the less fortunate be competitive and without passively letting them seek their own success. The second condition of Rawls’ second principle (difference principle) is a non-Kantian construction (Domjahn, 2006). It avoids economic disparities while Kant accepted unequal distributions of wealth. Either way, though, Rawls has certainly carried Kant’s social contract theory to a whole other level. His theory of justice follows the Kantian tradition.Acosta 3ReferencesDomjahn, Thomas. "John Rawls and Immanuel Kant: A Comparison." 2006. October 2019.Hare, R. M. "Rawls' Theory of Justice." JSTOR (1973): 144-155., Wolfgang. "Well Ordered Freedom: Immanuel Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy." (1993).Settig, Alfred. "Kant and Rawls. A Critical Examination of Rawls' Theory of Justice in the Light of Kant's Practical Philosophy, Mannheim."

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