Please view file for required reading/ and skim through SEP – Rawls’ “Original Position”, Sections 1, 2, & 3Links to an external site.

Does Rawls’ approach provide a better social contract than Hobbes?

For this discussion board recall the last module’s reading from Hobbes’ Leviathan and contrast it with the position of John Rawls in the selection from the first of his seminal work in political philosophy, A Theory of Justice (1972).

First, explain Rawls’ argument for the Original Position and it helps us choose the basic structure of society. Next briefly reiterate Hobbes’ argument for an absolute monarchy. Finally, consider each of the readings and provide an argument for which of these positions is a better or more realistic vision of political life. Choose only one to support, not both. Make sure you consider both readings equally in your response.

Required Reading – John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Selection)

SEP – Rawls’ “Original Position”, Sections 1, 2, & 3Links to an external site.

Recommended Reading – “Original Position”, Sections 1, 2, & 3.
< http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/ (Links to an external site.) >

Important: You may find some of the information in Sections 5 & 6 helpful. Please be advised that you should proceed through this material in a cautious and careful manner. The terminology is tricky and it usage is not always as apparent as it would be in everyday conversation.

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Additional Helpful Reading: In this module we will continue our discussion about the ideas of a social contract. Specifically, I would like you to consider whether there is a better way for citizens to characterize their relationship with the ruling government. For Hobbes, what is first required for a stable society is addressing the first questions of safety and security which stem from that fact that human society begins by being in the State of Nature. For Hobbes this problem is surmountable by placing control (political power) in the hands of a Sovereign for the purposes of protection and guidance. So, on Hobbes model government only exists to coerce obedience to the Sovereign, not necessary the laws or intrinsic rights of citizens.But what if we could consider our position objectively? Would we necessarily choose a monarchy, with the chance of implementing a malevolent ruler?

In different way, John Rawls attempts to demonstrate that we can conceive of a society in which the various plans, projects, and relationships that political activity (and human activity generally) consist of can reach a consensus. Rawls begins this experiment by stipulating what is known as ‘the veil of ignorance’. ‘Choosers’ that make decisions about the basic structure of society do so from behind the veil of ignorance. Choosers such as these are referred to as choosing from ‘the Original Position’. In the Original Position from behind the veil of ignorance, Choosers thus have no knowledge of themselves (i.e., what kind of person they are, ethnicity, social class, education level, etc.). Hence, it is only through deliberation that Choosers would be able to make decisions about the basic structure of society in service the common good.

Unlike Hobbes, whose position necessitates that we place power in the hands of a Sovereign out of fear, Rawls’ position entails that the Choosers would establish political arrangements out of a duty to the common good, resulting in constitutional liberal democratic regime. Thus, a moral order is established through deliberation and right reason in pursuit of the Good.

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