John Rawls Original Position: An Analysis

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RAWLS’ ORIGINAL POSITION AS THE CENTRAL FEATURE OF HIS THEORY OF JUSTICE David Hume pointed out that problems of justice typically arise when in situations of scarcity we seek to adjudicate between competing claims for limited goods (Feinberg 1980: 141). Different philosophers have proposed different theories of justice. One such philosopher is John Rawls whose theory of justice he called “justice as fairness”. His theory begins with one of the most general of all choices which persons might make together, namely, with the choice of the first principles of a conception of justice which is to regulate all subsequent criticism and reform of institutions (Pojman 1995: 630). In yielding the name “justice as fairness”, Rawls proposes the concept of “the original position” as the appropriate initial status quo which ensures that fundamental agreements reached in it are fair. This essay aims at examining Rawls’ original position as the central feature of his theory of justice. In examining this concept, the essay will expose the theory, assess how the original position supports justice as fairness, and analyze some criticisms leveled against the concept. The original position is the central feature of Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. In the theory, the original position of equality corresponds to the state of nature in the traditional theory of the social contract (Feinberg 2005: 600). It is designed to be a fair and impartial point of view that is to be adopted in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice. We are to view ourselves as free and equal persons who jointly commit themselves to principles of social and political justice (http// This original position is not, of course, thought of as an actual historical state of affairs, much less as a primitive condition of culture. It is understood as a purely
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