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Lift your lamp beside the golden door, Break not the golden rule, avoid well the golden calf, know; not all that glitters is gold, and laissez faire et laissez passer [let do and let pass] but as a shining sentinel, hesitate not to ring the bell, defend the gates, and man the wall

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like!

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!!

Cycle of Democracies

overview of what various forms of Govt.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



John Rawls 
(February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002)

Rawls is noted for his contributions to liberal political philosophy. Among the ideas from Rawls's work that have received wide attention are:

Justice as Fairness consists of two principles: First, each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others. Second, "Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and (b), they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society." The first of these two principles is known as the equal liberty principle. The second principle is split into two parts; the first, known as fair equality of opportunity, asserts that justice should not benefit those with advantageous social contingencies; while the second, reflecting the idea that inequality is only justified if it is to the advantage of those who are less well-off, is known as the difference principle.

The Original Position is a hypothetical designed to accurately reflect what principles of justice would be manifest in a society premised on free and fair cooperation between citizens, including respect for liberty, and an interest in reciprocity. The parties in the original position are concerned only with citizens' share of what he calls primary social goods, which include basic rights as well as economic and social advantages. Rawls also argues that the representatives in the original position would adopt the maximin rule as their principle for evaluating the choices before them. Borrowed from game theory, maximin stands for maximizing the minimum, i.e. making the choice that produces the highest payoff for the least advantaged position. Thus, maximin in the original position represents a formulation of social equality.

In the social contract, citizens in a state of nature contract with each other to establish a state of civil society. For example, in the Lockean state of nature, the parties agree to establish a civil society in which the government has limited powers and the duty to protect the persons and property of citizens. In the original position, the representative parties select principles of justice that are to govern the basic structure of society. Rawls argues that the representative parties in the original position would select two principles of justice:

   1. Each citizen is guaranteed a fully adequate scheme of basic liberties, which is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all others;
   2. Social and economic inequalities must satisfy two conditions:
          * to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged (maximin rule);
          * attached to positions and offices open to all. The reason that the least well off member gets benefited is that it is assumed that under the veil of ignorance, under original position, people will be risk averse. This implies that everyone is afraid of being part of the poor members of society, so the social contract is constructed to help the least well off members.

Recently, Thomas Nagel has elaborated on the concept of original position, arguing that social ethics should be built taking into account the tension between original and actual positions.

Reflective equilibrium is a state of balance or coherence among a set of beliefs arrived at by a process of deliberative mutual adjustment among general principles and particular judgments. Rawls argues that human beings have a "sense of justice" which is both a source of moral judgment and moral motivation. In Rawls's theory, we begin with "considered judgments" that arise from the sense of justice. These may be judgments about general moral principles (of any level of generality) or specific moral cases. If our judgments conflict in some way, we proceed by adjusting our various beliefs until they are in "equilibrium," which is to say that they are stable, not in conflict, and provide consistent practical guidance. Rawls argues that a set of moral beliefs in ideal reflective equilibrium describes or characterizes the underlying principles of the human sense of justice. Example - Suppose Zachary believes in the general principle of always obeying the commands in the Bible. Suppose also that he thinks that it is not ethical to stone people to death merely for being Wiccan. These views may come into conflict (see Exodus 22:18). If they do, Zachary will then have several choices. He can discard his general principle in search of a better one (for example, only obeying the Ten Commandments), modify his general principle (for example, choosing a different translation of the Bible, or deciding to interpret the commands figuratively), or change his opinions about the point in question to conform with his theory (by deciding that witches really should be killed). Whatever the decision, he has moved toward reflective equilibrium.

Overlapping consensus refers to how supporters of different comprehensive doctrines can agree on a specific form of political organization. These doctrines can include religion, political ideology or morals . However, Rawls is clear that such political agreement is narrow and focused on justice. This consensus is reached, in part, by avoiding the deepest arguments in religion and philosophy.The overlapping consensus “depends, in effect, on there being a morally significant core of commitments common to the ‘reasonable’ fragment of each of the main comprehensive doctrines in the community”
Public reason giving involves justifying a particular position by way of reasons that people of different moral or political backgrounds could accept. In order to accomplish this, however, one must overcome what he refers to as the burdens of judgment, which can produce disagreement among reasonable citizens. These burdens include conflicting evidence, giving differing weights to considerations, conceptual indeterminacy, differing experiences and value conflicts. Private reason, by contrast, is the exercise of an individual's reason to the constrained norms and interests of some sub-set of the public as a whole (such as a business, a political party, the military or the family).

State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the state's foundation. In a broader sense, the state of nature is the condition before the rule of positive law comes into being, thus being a synonym of anarchy. The idea of the state of nature was a part of a classical republicanism theory as a hypothetical reason of entering a state of society by establishing a government.

Rawls primarily influenced Social Justice as a secular concept, distinct from religious teachings, emerging mainly in the late twentieth century.
1. Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of basic rights and liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all; and in this scheme the equal political liberties, and only those liberties, are to be guaranteed their fair value.

2. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.
These principles are subtly modified from the principles in Theory. The first principle now reads "equal claim" instead of "equal right," and he also replaces the phrase "system of basic liberties" with "a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties." 

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