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DENKEN OVER DE RECHTVAARDIGE SAMENLEVING: REFLECTIES OVER DE THEORIE VAN JOHN RAWLS

J. H. M. M. LOENEN
Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
37ste Jaarg., Nr. 4 (DECEMBER 1975), pp. 653-680
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40883970
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
DENKEN OVER DE RECHTVAARDIGE SAMENLEVING: REFLECTIES OVER DE THEORIE VAN JOHN RAWLS
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Abstract

After some preliminaries concerning the original character of Rawls's formulation of the problem of social justice the author discusses the question, whether the proposed principles of justice for the basic structure of society bear the marks of a liberal theory.The conclusion of this part (IA) is that Rawls seems to have in view a mixed society, or perhaps rather a society which transcends the contrast between liberalism and socialism.Some critics have ascribed to Rawls the view of man of classical liberalism and for this reason have considered him a liberal. The author contends that these critics do not seem to have grasped the purely methodological significance of the concept of the original position. After some preliminaries concerning the original character of Rawls's formulation of the problem of social justice the author discusses the question, whether the proposed principles of justice for the basic structure of society bear the marks of a liberal theory.The conclusion of this part (IA) is that Rawls seems to have in view a mixed society, or perhaps rather a society which transcends the contrast between liberalism and socialism.Some critics have ascribed to Rawls the view of man of classical liberalism and for this reason have considered him a liberal. The author contends that these critics do not seem to have grasped the purely methodological significance of the concept of the original position. After a short interlude in which the conceptions of justice of Marx and Rawls are compared (IB) the author presents some considerations of a critical nature as regards the principles of justice (IC). The distinction between the general and the special conception of justice hinges on the lixical priority of freedom. Now, a contradiction seems to emerge between the fact that the choice in favor of the special conception is an absolute one, valid for all societies regardless of time and place, and the fact that the general conception is sometimes presented as a first phase in the evolution of a well-ordered society (sect.82). This is an indication that in Rawl's theory the priority of freedom is not as absolute as he thinks it to be. The decisive point in this respect seems to be the fact that the „fair value of liberty” (Sect. 36) would demand that a subsistence minimum is lexically prior to freedom. These seem to be serious inconsistencies for which nnno remedy can be found and which are apt to lead us back to „instuitionism” The author considers next (and this is his main point) the logical structure of Rawls's contract theory, which in his opinion stands in urgent need of clarification. It is argued that the concept of contract as such implies a certain indifference or indeterminateness as regards its result. At the other hand, the result (that which is agreed upon, i.e. the principles of justice) is ex hypothesi considered to explain „our considered judgements” in reflective equilibrium. In this way it appears that Rawl's central idea (rather implicitly) is : there exists a consensus as regards our considered judgements concerning justice and this consensus may be explained as resulting from a (hypothetical) contract. So the argument really is of a hypothetico-deductive nature and it would have been much better if Rawls had been clear about it himself. Some critical considerations follow. First attention is paid to the fact that strict observance is an essential element of the concept of contract and that from this point of view the three psychological laws (chapt. VIII) are of crucial importance to the theory. Their nature, however, is not altogether clear. They are neither empirical laws (because they presuppose a just institutional structure and a just society is said not to exist), nor are they a priori ones. So it is only left for us to say that they are construed as empirical laws. Now, the difficulty for Rawls with this must be that reliance on such laws is inconsistent with the rationality of the parties in the original position, because as a matter of fact these laws have not been tested empirically (the fact that they can not be tested in this way makes no difference at all). Secondly it is asked whether we are dealing with a contract doctrine at all. Starting from the question, whether in this theory the notion of contract (intended to explain our considered judgements as givens) really is an ultimate explanatory concept, it is argued that there are some anthropological presuppositions, which rather point in the direction of a theory of self-realization. This seems to be confirmed by some other features of the theory, e. g. the Aristotelian principle, the Kantian interpretation, the concept of natural rights, and society as a social union of social unions. In conclusion, neither Rawls's principles of justice nor his contract theory are sufficiently consistent to escape the need of reconsideration.

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