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Rawls And Mill: Ethical Theories

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The relationship between justice and the law is one that has been debated for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Many theorists have attempted to explain the exact characteristics of this relationship in order to outline a system of just law. However, this relationship is far too intricate for any one theory to dominate the field. The values used to formulate a system of just law are often times based upon personal preference, unseen biases, or self-motivation. Law is such an intrinsic facet to so many different aspects of life that finding a theory of justice capable of covering the entirety of law is impossible. The fact is that, man has neither the impartialness nor the capability of creating such a complete theory. Without a complete theory for application we are forced into using elements from several theories to debate even the most minuet topics of just law. The issue that arises when using several theories at once is the inherent contradictions that can be found when comparing and contrasting them. Every theory has a theorem which is used to outline its most basic principles. With the vast number of theories it is only rational that contradictions occur.

How is it though, that two theories can define just law completely different? Can one theory necessarily be right and the other wrong, or, is it possible for both to be partially right. When looking at the differences between Rawls' theory and Mill's Utilitarianism theory do we not see both similarities and differences within their respective principles? Possibly it is not a question of right or wrong but more so of practicality. A theory may be right but if it cannot be applied it is useless. Just as this is true, a theory that is wrong but practical should not be applied. In order to find the balance between right and wrong, and practicality it is important to look at every characteristics of the theories being discussed. Furthermore, the context of the discussion is equally as important to the application of the theories as the basic principles of each theory are. For instance, a topic that has popular moral connotation such as abortion, the death penalty, or pornography will be more likely to draw the opinions of everyone. Topics like these are more likely to be debated because there is not a clearly defined answer outlining what counts as just law and what does not.

As mentioned above pornography is a much debated issue in regards to what is and is not justifiable to show to the public. There are many concerns that people have raised about pornography such as; the degree of censorship, the degradation of women, and whether or not it is responsible for increasing the sexual aggression of men. The theorists that I will be investigating are Rawls and Mill. It is important to see the basis for each theorist's argument in order to better understand the application of their theories to the topic on hand. To comprehend the philosopher's argument is only the first step. To eventually explicate their theories and see the relevance those theories have to justice in respects to pornography is the true goal of this investigation.

The term coined by Rawls, "veiled ignorance" under his theory of "original position," which appeared primarily in his book A Theory of Justice, outlines the standard by which primary social goods (rights as well as economic and social advantages) must be distributed. For Rawls, veiled ignorance itself is the precursor for a theoretical system in which human interaction and the acquisition of primary social goods takes place in a just manner. Before being able to establish a system in which all participants maintain the same equally distributed rights, Rawls establishes the principle of veiled ignorance as an equalizer for all persons within the potential system. With veiled ignorance in place, persons within Rawls' prospective system will base their understanding and judgments of each other upon the belief that all people within that system are under the veil of ignorance.

Theoretically, the representatives of the citizenry in this hypothetical system will have no predetermined knowledge of the persons they represent. Therefore, the difference between the financial success, social status, gender, ethnicity, and natural abilities of each person within the system no longer plays any role in the social interaction of the representatives. In addition, the likelihood of a social contract being invalidated because of noticeable inequalities between the two parties signing into the agreement becomes nearly impossible under the veil of ignorance. Rawls' hypothetical situation, which he coined "the original position," replaces the concept of the "state of nature" developed by earlier theorists such as; Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. By replacing the concept of the "state of nature" with a more optimistic situation such as the "original position," Rawls has essentially provided a hypothetical situation with the perfect elements for the natural development of justice. "The original position" under Rawls' theory of "justice as fairness" establishes which aspects of justice would develop out of a system based on the principles of free and fair cooperation between its citizens. The understanding is that, if creating a system based on the "original position" was feasible, inherent in that systems framework would be the manifestation of universal liberty and a heightened desire for reciprocity amongst the systems' citizens.

It is Rawls' belief that the representatives who are under the veil of ignorance in the "original position" will eventually begin implementing the principle of "maximin rule" as a tool for assessing any potential situation that may arise. This means that, essentially, the representatives of the citizenry would seek to make decisions that would result in the maximum amount of payoff if and when the worst situations were to occur. Thus, Rawls achieves, through the representatives of the citizenry a type of social equality in which all persons within the system acquire as much primary social goods as is allowed in the worst possible outcome.

Although John Rawls' philosophy advocates a fair and free system in which social and economic differences amongst the citizens are meant to be invisible, these differences still inevitably exist. To reaffirm the goals sought after by the principles of "original position," Rawls outlines two more principles that must be achieved in order for these inequalities to exist without corrupting the potential system. The first principle, known as the "liberty principle," as mentioned before, establishes that all persons have the greatest degree of liberty and that it be compatible with the liberty of all. As discussed earlier, it



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