A Theory of Justice

Rawls has presented a political philosophical concept in regards to justice. In his work A Theory of Justice, he presents an argument of justice as fairness and explains the concept based on what he refers to as the Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect. In part III of his argument, the concept is well elaborated but moving to part IV, Rawls concentrates on stability and tends to move away from the Aristotelian Principle that he based his argument on in the third part.

The Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect has been widely referred to in Rawls work as presented in A Theory of Justice. In the third part of his arguments, Rawls on many occasions cites the Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect in postulating his theoretical arguments. His theory holds that a well organized society through a fair and just means is destined to be more stable. However, in the restatement, Rawls seems to be moving away from his initial conceptualization of the Aristotelian Principle.

This paper shall provide a critical analysis of how the Aristotelian principle has been differently regarded by Rawls in his theoretical framework especially in regards to part three and five.

Original Position
In part three of the book, Rawls revisits the concept of original position. Like many philosophers before him, Rawls belonged to the same category of social contract theorists including Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. However, his model was slightly different from his predecessors. Rawls developed the theory of justice based on the Aristotelian Principle which formed an essential component of his reasoning in his work. This is well elaborated in part three of his book. Rawls developed what he referred to as the principles of justice through the use of the so called the Original Position whereby principles of justice are decided in an impartial manner. He refers to the impartiality as the veil of ignorance that refrain individuals to any facts that might influence justice. Rawls observes that
No one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.

Rawls is of the view that unawareness of these facts regarding an individual leads to fair principles that shall apply to everyone. Incase any person is unaware of hisher destiny within the society heshe is not going to be biased towards a particular class within the community and thus would develop a fair justice system to all. People in the original position would accept a maximum strategy that would uplift the position of the disadvantaged.

The Aristotelian Principle
The Aristotelian Principle holds that other things being equal, human beings enjoy the exercise of their realized capacities (their innate or trained abilities), and this enjoyment increases the more the capacity is realized, or the greater its complexity. In his work on the theory of justice, Rawls argues that justice is the first virtue of a social institution. This means that a good society is characterized by structures that are in line with the principles of justice. Rawls sees the other theories that were developed earlier on as being inadequate and thus provides an alternative to the philosophical traditions that had dominated the society. He explained the importance of the principles of justice which forms the basis for a good society. There are two importance of the principles of justice and includes the provision of a means through which rights and duties are assigned in the fundamental societal institutions. The other importance is to be found in the definition of suitable distribution of the benefits and burdens within the society. Rawls is of the view that by his criteria, well organized societies are not common because in most cases, there is no consensus on what is just and unjust. He is of the view that a just and properly organized society has to follow rules that attend to the problems of effectiveness, synchronization, and stability within the society.
Aristotelian Principle in Part III

In the third part of his theory, Rawls argues that individuals acquire their capabilities through others in search of identity and the need to feel as part of the society. On self respect, Rawls offers the definition that it is having the conviction that an individuals plan is worthwhile. Rawls is of the view that one can only have this conviction in two ways which includes having a rational plan of life that gratifies the Aristotelian Principle and secondly by an individual being appreciated and confirmed by the society. Rationality in planning is defined by Rawls as a careful reflection in which the agent reviewed, in the light of all the relevant facts, what it would be like to carry out these plans and thereby ascertained the course of action that would best realize these more fundamental desires.

Rawls claims that the Aristotelian Principle has a companion effect which he describes that individuals would appreciate and associate with the abilities being displayed by others and emulates them. Our self-respect is dependant on the individuals with which we associate. The individuals are set to be respected by their associates once they display the well trained abilities in accordance to the Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect. Upon learning of these abilities, others are bound to witness and appreciate their life plan as worthwhile. To Rawls, an individual is a product of human life that has been lived according to the plan of life. Rawls does not differentiate between individuals who are excellent in their abilities as he argues that it should be a matter of concern that some people do pursue plans of life that are unattainable by others. Each individual has to associate with abilities that are similar to their own for the plan to be worthwhile.

In arguing for the political justice based on the original position, Rawls differentiated the argument into two different parts. He claims that political parties are not influenced by the social psychologies in the sense that politicians usually thinks of the people that they represent as first priority. The reasoning of the politicians is therefore shaped by the need to observe justice principles that are favorable to the needs of the people being represented. Secondly, the parties consider the psychology of the people being represented in a well ordered society of justice as fairness. The basic structure that has been regulated by the two principles of justice has to be evaluated on whether it really creates in individuals a high degree of excusable envy and spite, or a will to dominate. In such a scenario, the sense of justice among the citizens is likely to weaken or more often overridden by attitudes that are ingrained in the particular psychologies. Institutions of justice are commonly violated with the revered principles of justice failing to generate their own support. It is therefore important for parties to reconsider the principles that have been agreed upon and scrutinize if, on balance, there is need to adopt other principles. Incase the existing principles are sufficient hence stable, then there is no need for other principles to be adopted.

There is need for the parties to be aware of the social theory and its connectivity with the human psychology in order to set justice as fairness. The Aristotelian Principle is well elaborated here in the sense that the political idea of justice shall be the focus of a reasonably overlapping consensus which forms the public basis of justification. Rawls observes that

For an agreement of justice to be effective, and to support a public basis, of justification, there must be a companion agreement on the guidelines for public inquiry and on the criteria as to what kind of information and knowledge is relevant in discussing political questions, at least when these involves the constitutional essentials and questions of basic justice.

It follows that the original agreement is based on two parts which includes the agreement on the political justice for the fundamental structure and on the principles of reasoning and the rules of evidence under which the public is to make a decision on whether the principles of justice apply and if so, are they satisfying The public has to make a general evaluation of the principles of justice in the context of the prevailing social environment. This leads to a situation in which basic institutions and public policies have to be acceptable to all citizens.

Part IV
In part five of his theoretical framework, Rawls concentrates on the issue of stability of justice as fairness and how the stableness aids in connecting with the good in a well ordered society. In trying to elaborate on the concept of stability using the political justice criteria in the society, Rawls seems to have moved away from the Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect as elaborated in the third part of the theory of justice. Rawls observes that political power often uses force and is supported by the states machinery to enforce the legislations. Political power in a regime that is guided by the constitution can refer to the power of equal citizens acting as a collective body. In this case, the political power is usually imposed upon the citizens where some do not approve of the reasons advanced in approving the constitution or may be approving it but holding reservations about its suitability. Rawls distinguishes the political domain from other non-political domains. He claims that the political sphere is not voluntary as compared to associational it is also not affectional as the familial and personal domains.

The issues arising form political stability in a democracy guides us into conceptualizing a different aspect of political justice in an effort to make the political conceptualization of justice as an aspect of consensus that overlaps. This means that the political regime has to gain support of at least considerable and inclusive policies that persists and amass adherents as time goes by. If this is not the case, the political class is endangered. This implies that in liberal politics, justice as fairness in reference to the constitution holds that the constitution generally disregards any conflicting values that may arise. The conflicting matters are best addressed through appealing to the political values in contest.

The constitution becomes supreme in this scenario and individuals have to adhere to it under any circumstances. The individuals no longer observe the Aristotelian Principle with its companion effect as elaborated in the third part of the theory of justice. Rawls claims that it is unreasonable for any individual or an association of individuals to hold onto using the public force (the power of citizens as equals) in imposing their wish upon other individuals. Thus Rawls contravenes the Aristotelian principle as discussed in the third part of his work. Arguing that it is irrational to implement a particular dogma should not mean that the doctrine can be rejected as incorrect. Instead, such a conception is considered as essential to the political liberalism concept in the sense that the use of coercive political authority in enforcing our personal interests is objected. In this regard, justice as fairness has to be acceptable by the people based on the rationality and reasonability. It should also address the issue of freedom and equality in order to address the public reasoning. Justice as fairness has to should therefore be designed to achieve the rational backing of the citizens.

Rawls in the revised document tend to move away from his initial work especially in regard to the argument presented in the third part. He deviates to claim that justice as fairness is good apart from being right. Justice as fairness in part three has been defined as a comprehensive principle but he proceeds to define it as a meta-doctrine in his revised work. His major intention in the revised document was driven by public reason. In debating about the constitutional essentials and issues of fundamental justice, individuals are incapacitated from appealing to the truth from their point of view instead, they do so in terms each could reasonably expect that others might endorse as consistent with their freedom and equality. Rawls abandons the Aristotelian Principle in his revised work as he advances the political liberalism. In this respect, it is actually contradictory to argue that societies that are characterized with individuals holding different plans for their lives can achieve stability through the appreciation of their variations and at the same time claim that stability is unachievable in situations where liberals and different religious groups could tolerate their differences in looking for political solutions.

Rawls is credited for having revived the political philosophy that was on the verge of collapse through the publication of his liberalist philosophical work on justice. He incorporated social sciences, game theory and psychology among other academic disciplines. He brought to life the concept of social contract which he developed using the concept of justice in his philosophical work. His emphasis on the Aristotelian Principle is well elaborated in part three of his work which concentrated on the notion of the original Position. In the last part of his argument, Rawls emphasizes on the concept of stability and his explanations tend to move away from the notion of the Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect as discussed in the third part. In this last part, Rawls elaborated much on the political liberalism in which the notion of Aristotelian Principle and its companion effect seems to have been lost.


Post a Comment