Rawls & Situational Ethics

Twentieth-Century Philosophy: The Question of Evil

Situational Ethics

You have a sixty thousand dollar tuition grant to be divided among five categories of students. How would you divide it so that all would be happy with the distribution? We will employ natural law theory, which are the precepts and rules of reason, to make a unanimous decision. There are five quintiles, as follows:

1. The Rich Kid (inherited income of ten million dollars)

2. The Lawyer’s daughter (income one hundred thousand dollars)

3. The School Teacher’s son (income of fifty thousand dollars; both parents working)

4. The Bus Driver’s daughter (income of twenty thousand dollars)

5. Two Unemployed Parents on welfare (ten thousand dollar allotment) with a son

You are to create a social contract that is a civil society, for this moment to distribute justly the moneys fairly. How do you proceed? What about the greedy Rogue? Too, all students have straight As. Use only merit and need as the two criteria for making your rational decision.

Use the following concepts of Rawls’s utopia, below. How would they compare to what Hobbes and Locke would do?

1. The original position.

2. The veil of ignorance.

3. Maximin—maximize the minimum money that each category would accept as fair, while agreeing by consensus to what others achieve. The axiom is that the least privileged sector of society gets preferred treatment. That is the public good. Is it?

4. Distributive justice and efficiency with the least difference principle. Infer that the differences between categories would be based on a combination of need and talent. However, you want to mitigate any gross discrepancies in the allocation of scarce moneys so that consensus can be achieved. What is the optimum for each category if all are A students?

5. There is the assumption that capitalism can reform itself, which is the basis of the welfare state of Rawls. When does equality of opportunity become equality of outcome, which is not necessarily the intent of the participants in this communitarian democracy?

6. Rawls and his A Theory of Justice has fashioned the political philosophy and rationale of the welfare state. It assumes that in the redistribution of wealth and position innocent people will be hurt for the benefit of the public good. Is that true fairness?

7. Do public good and public morality coincide? Should public policy promote justice to rectify?

historic wrongs that require innocent third parties to be sacrificed?

Prisoner’s Dilemma: One Time and Multiple Time Encounters

Options Prisoner A Prisoner B

Conspirators Cooperate -5 years -5 years

“Rat Out”/Cooperate go free -25 years

-25 years go free

“Rat Out” Each Other __-10 years -10 years

I. The Good (Ethics)

A. Hobbes—peace

We must discuss factors that lead man to be irrational, such as competition stemming from scarcity; diffidence with a first strike capability of the person acting in “bad faith” to seize another person’s property or even life; and honor, in which man seeks to be the “dominant wolf” because of his vainglory.

B. Locke—pursuit of life, liberty, and property; man is rational.

C. Rawls—justice is fairness; man optimizes his life’s utilities.

II. State of Nature (Sociology of Knowledge)

A. Hobbes-historically true, but man is bad.

B. Locke—historically true, but man is good, and out of convenience forms a social contract.

C. Rawls—utopia—an ideal against which to measure man’s progress toward social justice; a matter of sound judgment of what can be beautiful in life.

III. The Sovereign (Political Philosophy)

A. Hobbes— Leviathan.

B. Locke—King in Parliament.

C. Rawls—participatory democracy—information revolution.

IV. Society (Historiography—are the origins of society as described historically true?)

A. Hobbes—the rule of law with power ultimately in the hands of the absolute, but enlightened sovereign who delegates power. The sovereign is subject only to his conscience and God.

B. Locke—sovereignty cannot be alienated to a third party; always resides in the people with vested interests in society. The trustee is outside the contract.

C. Rawls—sovereignty in the community with people participating directly so that they form a social contract by unanimity—not efficient, given man’s fractious nature.

V. The Economy (Philosophy of Science—in its heyday, how did England amass the capital to emerge as the dominant power in the world?)

Discuss the Protestant Work Ethic versus the mercantile states of the static Roman Catholic states, which had fixed estates with little or no social mobility, living off the plunder of their respective empires.

A. Hobbes—mercantile society; allow people to prosper to keep social stability; not so among nations. Sovereign through laws must protect property and men’s lives because that is the reason that individuals alienated their power to legitimate the central government.

B. Locke—commercial, bourgeois society with persons judged by blend of money and merit (labor theory of value); still pre-Industrial Revolution.

C. Rawls—post-industrial society with a global village; social democracy prevails in an era of plenty.