The Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance

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Political philosopher John Rawls believed that in order for society to function properly, there needs to be a social contract, which defines ‘justice as fairness’. Rawls believed that the social contract be created from an original position in which everyone decides on the rules for society behind a veil of ignorance. In this essay, it will be argued that the veil of ignorance is an important feature of the original position. First, the essay will describe what the veil of ignorance is. Secondly, it will look at what Rawls means by the original position. Thirdly, it will look at why the veil of ignorance is an important feature of the original position. Finally, the essay will present a criticism to the veil of ignorance and the original…show more content…
Overall, the goal of the original position is to find out a fair and equal way to achieve the principles of justice.

Why is The Veil of Ignorance an Important Feature of The Original Position? The main goal of the original position is to set up a impartial procedure so that any principle agreed to will be fair and just (Rawls, 1971). In order to create principles that are fair and just, people must “nullify the effects of specific contingencies which put men at odds and tempt them to exploit social and natural circumstances to their own advantage.” (Rawls, 1971, 136) In order to do this effectively, Rawls argues that the parties involved have to be situated behind a veil of ignorance (Rawls, 1971). Without being behind the veil of ignorance, and if “a knowledge of particulars is allowed, then the outcome is biased by arbitrary contingencies.” (Rawls, 1971, 141) Therefore, the restrictions on the particular knowledge in the original position are of fundamental importance (Rawls, 1971). Without the original position, the parties involved would not be able to work out any definite principles of justice (Rawls, 1971). The society who does not enact a social contract from the original position would then have to be content with a vague understanding of justice and therefore have very little substance to the agreement itself (Rawls, 1971). The veil of ignorance makes it possible to have a unanimous choice of a particular conception of justice (Rawls,
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