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John Rawls : The First Of Five Children Of William Lee Rawls And Anna Abell Stump

Decent Essays
John Rawls was one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century. He was born on February 21, 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland. John Rawls was the second of five children of William Lee Rawls and Anna Abell Stump. After attending an Episcopalian preparatory school in Connecticut, he entered Princeton University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1943. Later that year, he enlisted in the army and served with the infantry in the South Pacific until 1945. In 1946, he returned to Princeton and eventually earned his Ph.D. in moral philosophy in 1950 (Duignan, 2015).
John Rawls taught at Princeton from 1950 to 1952, Cornell University from 1953 to 1959, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1960 to 1962,
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Rawls explains:
Suppose we gathered, just as we are, to choose the principles to govern our collective life—to write a social contract. What principles would we choose? We would probably find it difficult to agree. Different people would favor different principles, reflecting their various interests, moral and religious beliefs, and social positions. Some people are rich and some are poor; some are powerful and well connected; others, less so. Some are members of racial, ethnic, or religious minorities; others, not. We might settle on a compromise. But even the compromise would likely reflect the superior bargaining power of some over others. There is no reason to assume that a social contract arrived at in this way would be a just arrangement (Sandel, 2015).

Rawls says that when we make decisions, we should choose behind a “veil of ignorance,” which prevents us from knowing anything about who we are. We don’t know our race or ethnicity, our class or gender, our political opinions or religious convictions. We don’t even know our advantages and disadvantages or whether we are healthy or frail, highly educated or a high-school dropout, born to a supportive family or a broken one. If no one had knowledge of any of these things, we would choose from a position of equality. Since no one would have a superior position, the principles we would agree to would be
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