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1/7/04

Home______John Rawls & Social Justice

Imagine yourself the member of a high council. The council's task is to create all laws for a future society. You have certain interests and plans but that's all you know.

As soon as you and all council members have agreed on these laws everybody will drop dead.

You and the other members will immediately come back to life in the future society that has been legislated, but nobody on the council has a guarantee of race, religion, gender, physical condition, or position in life when revived.

You might be man or woman, rich or poor. You might be a ditch digger or a CEO. Your skin color, facial features, religion, health, and freedom from mental or physical handicap are also not guaranteed.

What kind of laws would you legislate? What could people of all religions, including the non-religious, accept? Understand that this will be a pluralistic society.

Philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) proposed a thought experiment, Original Position, in his 1971 Theory of Justice. He argued that under such conditions council members would give priority to a group of traditional religious positions and political liberties based on equality for all citizens. They would permit economic inequalities, but only if the least well off could be elevated in position.

As a real life corollary to Rawls' idea of justice, here is The Homeless Guy to think about. If the down and out are isolated in daily lives, they at least can reach out in cyberspace. At his blog The Homeless Guy says that there is more to homeless people than being homeless. About himself, he says this,

"I first became homeless in the Winter of 1982. I was 21 years old then, yet had no idea how to take care of myself in this world. Since then, I have experienced several episodes of homelessness, as well as periods of semi-homelessness. The past 20 years have been a struggle, trying to get a grip on what most everyone else considers to be normal life. I've never been able to fit into 'normal.' And I've never been able to fit into our society, which I doubt is anywhere near normal, either. I have discovered recently some of the causes of my problems and am working to overcome them as best as I can." Here is his link: The Homeless Guy.

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