A Theory of Justice Essay

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A Theory of Justice Communitarian critics of Rawls have argued that his A Theory of Justice provides an inadequate account of individuals in the original position. Michael Sandel, in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice argues that Rawls' conception of the person divorces any constitutive attachments that persons might have to their ends. Hence, Sandel asserts that Rawls privileges the standpoint of self-interested individuals at the expense of communal interests. I do not find Sandel's specific criticisms to be an accurate critique of what Rawls is doing in A Theory of Justice. However, this does not mean the more general thrust of the communitarian analysis of Rawls' conception of the person must be abandoned. By picking up the pieces…show more content…
The parties in the original position function as representatives of actual citizens in society. However, unlike actual citizens, the parties in the original position lack certain specific social facts that would bias their decisions on what the best possible principles of justice would be. Hence, in the original position, individuals are thought of as lacking certain knowledge, behind a veil of ignorance, and as guided by rational choice. The parties in the original position then choose the founding principles of justice that will guide the institutions of an actual well ordered society. By neglecting certain facts about particular societies, communitarian theorists have argued that Rawls' theory of justice provides an inadequate conception of the individual in the original position. Some critics have taken more specific aim and argue that A Theory of Justice privileges the standpoint of self-interested individuals while inadequately accounting for communal interests. Michael Sandel in his work Liberalism and the Limits of Justice advances this criticism of Rawls. Sandel contends that by separating a person's ends from her identity, Rawls cannot allow for any ends to be constitutive of an individual and hence communal. Because individuals are not attached to their ends, they cannot but choose the principles of justice based on self-interest. I do not find this to be a fair

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