John Rawls’ Theory of Justice

Jonathan Wolff gives a very brief introductory overview of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, one of the most influential works in political philosophy of the 20th century. Rawls’ argument takes the form of a thought experiment involving a hypothetical contract in which people are made ignorant about certain facts about themselves which could bias them in their own favor (e.g. their race, gender, class, age, talents, etc.). In this way, ignorance is used as a way to guarantee impartiality in deciding how societies should be set up. After all, one cannot rig things up to benefit oneself if one doesn’t know what one’s interests are and what one’s position in society will be. Rawls argued that people behind this so-called “veil of ignorance” would agree to two principles of justice: the liberty principle and the difference principle. Jonathan Wolf explains these principles and the main arguments for and against them. (My Summary)