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Ethical foundation of John Rawls' theory of justice


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Jakić, Marko. (2018). Ethical foundation of John Rawls' theory of justice. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Philosophy.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij filozofije) [mentor Jurić, Hrvoje].

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This dissertation deals with the main aspects of the John Rawls’ theory of social contract, trying to prove that its ethical aspect has the foundational role in his overall philosophy. The motivation for making this dissertation was found in the fact that Rawls’s theoretical thought is, with no doubt, influential contemporary attempt of philosophical problematization of the foundation of justice in the democratically realized societies of western civilization. This theory can be important for the so called “societies in transition”. The reasons for this importance are identified and analyzed in the following directions: a) Rawls’ theory of justice seeks to alleviate the problem of social status of less prosperous social strata. Therefore, this theory consequently problematizes the social relations that the complexity of modern democratic societies eo ipso provokes. b) Rawls' theory strives for theoretical universalism based on the ethical construction of a social contract. This construction begins with an ideal thought experiment, and ends with a clearly stated intention to prove the real applicability of the same results to all significant factors of social structures. c) Rawls deals with those parts of philosophy that contribute to arguing in favor of the idea of constructing a social contract based on the ethical category as a theoretical expression for the moral characteristic of righteousness (sense of justice). d) Ethical categories in general need not be considered with the possible metaphysical, or with the possible biological aspect. But inevitably they have to be considered from the ontological point of view. Especially since Rawls assumes the moral part of the nature of the human being as a characteristic that is an autonomous, ontologically irreducible, characteristic of the human being. Some forms of social organization could historically have been realized only according to the humanity's sociality. These forms of social organization could neglect, relativize, or totally negate any irreducible autonomy of the moral features of human beings. But theories that do not accept this kind of relativization of moral outcomes must consider the moral origins as the ontological autonomic features of human beings. The analytical need to isolate the ontological aspect in the theories dealing with the human being is the reason why this aspect was first placed in consideration of the main structural aspects of Rawls' philosophy. Justice is called the ethical category in the context of Rawls' ethical reflection on the moral characteristic as an ontological character of the human being. Ethics is understood in accordance with the Aristotle-oriented definition as a philosophical discipline whose narrower subject is the consideration of the morality of human activity. An analytical critical consideration of historically philosophically-derived ideas of justice allowed Rawls to consider consensus on an acceptable understanding of justice. An analytical critical consideration of historically philosophically-derived ideas of a social contract allowed him his own construction of a social contract: The consensus-based construction founded on the concept of justice. His theoretical synthesis of these ideas was based on a thought experiment in its original position, under the veil of ignorance. The synthesis is emphasized as a valuable Rawls' contribution to both the philosophy of morality and the philosophy of social contract. The relationship between morality and rationality is outlined as a particular chapter for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that Rawls himself in A Theory of Justice specifically dealt with this topic in two chapters under the heading: “The Nature of the Argument for Conceptions of Justice“ and „The Reasoning Leading to the Two Principles of Justice". Another reason is the fact that logical formality undoubtedly belongs to the content of the notion of rationality. The third reason is that Rawls in many places in his works mentions rationality as a means of achieving a theoretical construct based on reflections of justice. Fourthly, the fact that only rational reasoning is taken for granted can consistently lead not only to the principles of justice but also to the results contrary to the principles of justice. The fifth is the fact that Rawls distinguished formal rationality, generally based primarily on logical rules, from reasonability, generally inevitably conformed to logical rules, but also specifically based on the relationship of morality and sociability. There is no reasonability that could be irrational, but not every rational reason is a reasonable reason. Rawls has argued that social behavior over justice cannot be socially reasonable. The chapter on political and economic aspects of sociality deserved special consideration also for several reasons. Under the term "good", in Rawls' theory, all kinds of social goods are covered: the available natural resources, institutionally legally regulated civilization and cultural achievements, and finally self-esteem of the person as a social moral good. The way of distributing material goods obtained through the use of natural resources is certainly one of the central topics of any philosophy of social contract. Especially contracts whose foundations are to be based on the principles derived from morality. Institutional regulation of social relations, realized by legal regulations based on a consensus accepted in the sense of justice as fairness, is in the first place a means of realizing life plans of citizens. It is a means of realizing personal life plans of citizens who are personally, but not socially, entirely self-sufficient and independent. It is entirely personally independent means in terms of free determination of one's own perception of good as a desirable life goal, but limited by the reasonability of commonly-made decisions about social good. A social limitation that generally presupposes the prudence of the principle that a free perception of a person’s good ends when there is a free understanding of the good of another person. The self-esteem of every person in Rawls's theory is the most important social good. This chapter demonstrates how Rawls has endeavored to ensure the maximum achievement of the minimum necessary access to and distribution of basic social goods to all citizens through contracts tailored to the moral principles derived from their common sense of justice. It has been shown that the autonomic ethical category, as an expression of the ontological moral character of the human being, has to be considered theoretically in relation to the other ontological and psychological characteristics of the human being. In the case of Rawls' theory, consideration was given to the mutual relationships of ontological features of justice, freedom, sociability, will, and rationality, and the psychological features of egoism and altruism. There have been considerations of morality in relation to sociality, equality, freedom and rationality as particular chapters of this discussion. In the chapter on the relationship of morality and freedom, Rawls' concept of this relationship was separated and compared to the classical liberalistic "negative" definition of freedom. It is emphasized that, in Rawls’s philosophy, the descriptions of morally correct social opportunities, and the obligation for a sensible justification of interfering with social authorities in the freedom of any person, lose the classic liberalistic "negative" definition of freedom. The free choice of social opportunities, access to education, creative contribution to civilization and cultural progress, socially useful work and helping those in a disadvantageous social position certainly do not fall into the negative definition of freedom. Psychological features of egoism and altruism are particularly considered as part of Rawls' “moral psychology”. Namely, Rawls warned, the theoretical assumptions determined by human beings as an extremely egoistic being, and examples of altruism mentioned only as exceptions to the rules, are in constant danger of ultimately ending in complete moral skepticism. The theoretical settings that human beings define as a highly altruistic being, and examples of egoism are only mentioned as exceptions, are in constant danger of ending in a utopian failure. In this dissertation constructions of mental experiments, similar to Rawls' mental experiment known as "cake-sharing", were derived. A more detailed consideration of the problem of intuition had a particular goal. It was necessary to separate the two types of intuitionist theoretical elements. It was necessary to separate the theoretical elements that Rawls criticized as the intuition of common sense norms present in utilitarian theories, from the intuition of the principle which is present in his own theory. Especially since Rawls could not theoretically give up an intuitive element in his own theory. Namely; no fundationalist ethical theory, and therefore neither Rawls, can renounce its intuitive accepted theoretical fundament. Attempts to renounce it have only two theoretical alternatives: either the fall into a regresus ad infinitum, or the fall into a moral relativism. It was therefore necessary to give an arguable review that could convincingly justify the fact that Rawls could consistently to rely on the intuition of justice, which he called “intelligible sense of justice”. Especially an arguable review concerning the problem of intuition from the Kantian aspect of interpretation was to be considered. The explanation of this fact enabled an attempt to explain the fact that Rawls could defend himself from a series of objections from the point of view of moral relativism with the help of arguments that support the existence of an autonomously intuitive assumed moral fundament, while at the same time criticizing the heteronomy of the intuitive assumptions present in neo-liberal theories, as well as common sense assumptions present in communtarianistic and Marxist theories. The importance of Rawls' argumentation is emphasized in support of the thesis that moral relativism, though, offers theoretical description of historically-conditioned causes of mutually different morality, but does not offer an ethically acceptable and morally non skeptical theoretical alternative. It is also emphasized as no less important Rawls arguing in favor of the thesis that utilitarian intuitive heteronomy nevertheless offers a theoretical description of the possibility of achieving individual goals, but does not offer a solution to the problem of questioning their morality. Utilitarianism is certainly an influential set of theories in contemporary societies with a historically long democratic tradition. But contemporary reality testifies that theoretical norms, insufficiently carefully critical to the only existing fundamental principle of utilitarianism, in less developed societies often result in different moral and highly questionable neo-liberalist solutions. Some of these solutions are the cause of deviations even from procedurally formally required equality before the law of members of different social strata. These deviations make their most difficult form in the overall social inequality of the person. Social inequality of people in such societies is associated with an overwhelming concentration of political power and the influence of the narrow layer of material-favored persons. Excessive influence of individuals and / or layers of privileged individuals is strongly influenced by political decision-making procedures and then on institutional decision-making procedures. The impact on the democratic decision-making process results in the state of democracy as an apparent, culturally ceremonial "decoration" of society. The larger scale of similar influences distorts the self-esteem of a large number of underprivileged persons, or the entire layer of underprivileged persons. Philosophical influences on Rawls' thought have been particularly separated for several reasons. One of the reasons is that Rawls in his works undoubtedly pointed to parts of the theoretical views of a number of authors, commenting on how these views influenced his theory. The parts of philosophical systems that have influenced Rawls’ views have been analyzed and understood as arguing arguments in favor of his own standpoints. With the exception of one case: An interpretation of Kant's philosophy undertaken by Henry Sidgwick. Later influences on Rawls' theory were identified as well as separated within the consideration of Rawls' responses to critics. The criticisms put forward by Joshua Cohen and Jurgen Habermas have been particularly analyzed. There are seventeen specifically asked questions in the dissertation. Therefore, this dissertation can be seen as an attempt to answer these isolated questions.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethics, morality, justice, freedom, rationality, reasonability, contract, sociability, mental experiment, moral fundament
Subjects: Philosophy
Departments: Department of Philosophy
Supervisor: Jurić, Hrvoje
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij filozofije
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2018 09:48
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2018 09:48

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