Throughout time philosophers have established numerous theories on what justice really is and what principles it follows such as equality. In the early 20th century, a philosopher John Rawls, presented a theory of justice which associates to fairness, however, there had been a debate on what he really meant by fairness , and how can fairness really be reached when everyone has their own personal interests in hand. In this essay, I will analyse the relationship between equality and justice through Rawls arguments about the principles of justice and his theory that this can be done by fairness. In an attempt of reaching a decision independent of individual interests and coming to fitting principles attributed to justice, this can be attained through what he presents as the notion of the ‘veil of ignorance’ then I will argue for his proposition in light of the convincing ideas he presents which allow him in a way to show how this conception on the veil of ignorance is essential in reaching total fairness and equity in a newly built society and how our original human nature which revolves around the importance of self-preservation prevents us from reaching any settlements that favor the community as a whole.
How Rawls Defines Relationship Between Equality and Justice
Rawls views the political problem as a procedural issue (Rawls, p.583), Unlike Plato’s view the political problem isn’t about finding what good really is but rather identifying the proper procedure that allows us to live together, it’s about working out the differences in an adequate manner to reach some place of unity in decision. Rawls offers a theory known as “the veil of ignorance” in his attempt of reaching an egalitarian society. People have different views or conceptions on what good really is (fact of pluralism), Rawls agrees that the moral person has 2 main traits; rationality (advancing our interests, self-interested) and reasonableness (reciprocity, willingness to accept that if it applies to me it applies to you) (Rawls,plato.stanford.edu), “each person decides by rational reflection what constitutes his good, that is, the system of ends which it is rational for him to pursue”(Rawls,p.581), Given that we are these kind of beings we wouldn’t be able to agree on one thing, everyone is going to look for their own interest, and in turn this will certainly conflict with the ability of reaching a uniform ideology on justice.
The predicament of how to get around those differences arises. According to Rawls we need to have a common fair view of goodness, thus Rawls’s solution in attempting to minimize biases based on one’s selfish needs, is achieved by ‘the veil of ignorance’. In the veil of ignorance, we start from a position of equality, we’re all the same. Rawls assumes the concept of placing individuals behind the veil of ignorance as their negligence of a variety of prospects in the society they live in, such as their abilities, position in the society they live in, their race, gender, nationality, or even to which generation they individually belong to.(Rawls, p.587), but Rawls asserts “There are no limitations on general information, that is, on general laws and theories, since conceptions of justice must be adjusted to the characteristics of the systems of social cooperation which they are to regulate, and there is no reason to rule out these facts” (Rawls, p.588).
Behind the veil of ignorance, we must also set aside our conception of good and religious beliefs since we can’t reach an agreement with those included because of the variety in opinions, The laws of justice cannot be justified by our own religious beliefs they have to be justified by reason that everyone can agree on rather than rationalism. Solely Rawls believes in a hypothetical agreement not a historical one.
Considering Rawls proposition it can be made clear that the only people that are fit to be in the agreement are those of reasonable nature, opinionated people aren’t even included. In this way Rawls believes that we are capable of reaching ultimate fairness without any inclinations, since the negligence each individual has of who she/he even is, will not allow her/him to even know what works for their advantage and what damages it. Which will drive them one way or another into having to agree on one thing that benefits all of them and not one of them. For example, if a person doesn’t know which gender he/she is then they wouldn’t be able to set laws in favor of the other since they’re unaware if it will benefit or disadvantage them thus leading to a decision in favor of both. Thus, Rawls considers the philosophy of using fairness as a substitute of good and that can be achieved by the veil of ignorance, seeing that people behind that veil will be committed to fair conception. As a result of that Rawls regards that two principles will come forth; “First, each person is to have equal rights to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others and Second, social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both reasonable expected to be to everyone’s advantage”.