• Jasmine
    10
    Hi everyone.

    I'm relatively new here and as a previous psychology student, I am struggling to grasp the philosophical way of thinking, its not what I am used to and I am trying to change that.

    I wanted to propose a scenario and see what people would choose and why, to try and open up the way I am thinking, and hopefully help with my philosophy studies going forward.

    Last week we learnt about the original position by John Rawls. The original position is a hypothetical thought experiment with the aim to discover the principles that should structure a society of free, equal and moral people. Rawls states that his Principles of Justice would be chosen by parties in the original position. In the original position, you are asked to consider which principles you would select for the basic structure of society, but you must select as if you had no knowledge ahead of time what position you would end up having in that society. This choice is made from behind a veil of ignorance, which prevents you from knowing your ethnicity, social status, gender and, crucially, your individual idea of how to lead a good life. Ideally, this would force participants to select principles impartially and rationally.

    Scenario: You are bargaining for a client in an Original Position. You have to come
    up with a principle of distributive justice that your client will be able to satisfactorily
    live under. You know nothing of your client’s talents, abilities, gender, religious views,
    sexual orientation, etc – except that she or he is not disabled. Fortunately, the other
    people in your group also have the same knowledge. You will have to think about how you will justify your choice to your client when you find out who he or she is.

    Note: A prior original position has already agreed that basic liberties – freedoms of conscience,
    religion, expression, and association, and the rights to participate in public and
    political life, as well as the liberties associated with the psychological and physical
    integrity of the person – must be guaranteed to all, so you need not worry about
    violations of people’s basic rights and liberty.

    These are your options (Remembering that these principles will govern your client’s entire life, and he/she will not be able to escape from the setting in which they apply)


    1. Laissez Faire: Markets will operate without government intervention, except
    to protect private property (including intellectual property through patenting
    and copyrighting legislation) and to place modest limits on the emergence of
    oligopolistic and monopolistic markets.

    2. Equality of Resources: People will have roughly equal resources available to
    them over their full lives.

    3. Sufficiency: Everyone will have a basic needs safety net guaranteed. Above that
    level, markets will determine rewards, unless a democratically elected
    legislature chooses to constrain them. (If you select this principle, be prepared
    to explain what counts as basic need, and why).

    4. Maximin: Inequalities of resources will be arranged so that the least
    advantaged will better off than they would be under any other arrangement.

    5. Equality of Welfare: Resources will be distributed so that everyone ends up
    more or less equally happy.

    6. You may, if you choose, formulate a compromise between these principles, or
    formulate an entirely different principle. If so, it must be reasonably precise,
    and you must be prepared to defend it

    which of the principles would you choose for your client, and why would you choose it?

    Thanks
  • god must be atheist
    2.5k
    Let me see what this is. You are a practicing clinical psychologist. A client walks in, with any number of psychological problems on any depth of severety. Yo don't know his gender, age, financial status, sexual orientation, etc. You have to decide for him how he should choose things such as the government will not get involved but to protect private ownership. ETC.

    ????

    Psychological counselling has changed TREMENDOUSLY since I last have been a consumer.

    There are a tremendous number of terms and scenarios that are explained to you in class, that you have not conveyed here. We can't possibly guess, because of the apparent complexity, what the heck your scenario is. Client? World economy? Like ???? We are to decide how the world should be run? And the client is who? or why or when or what this quagmire of incrdibly convoluted nonsense is?

    I think you have to explain this problem better to us, if you need to see some sort of sensible answers based on reason.
  • Jasmine
    10
    this is nothing to do with psychology. I'm just an ex psychology student who is doing a philosophy course currently and trying to adapt my thought process. It is about the original position. So you when you are in the original position proposed by Rawls, it is a hypothetical thought experiment where your aim is to create the ideal fair and just society, in order to achieve this you must pretend you don't know who you are or who anyone else is or what your position in the new society would be, this way your decision will be fair and not self benefiting. So with the information provided above, you know your client is not disabled.. But that is all you know. Now using the 6 options provided you must either chose one option to govern everyone's entire life, combine them of create your own principle.
    I hope that makes sense
  • god must be atheist
    2.5k
    So you when you are in the original position proposed by Rawls,Jasmine

    To me it is unclear, from your description, what the "origianal position:" is. It may be so totally because I am not smart enough to comprehend your description of it. I fully capitulate to that eventuality.

    Who is a client? I am to create a just society. The client is a singular person. The problem is unsolvable because I deal with 1 client and I have to command everyone in an entire society. This is ill-designed as a thought experiment. I can't create a just society for one client, if I need to (arbitrarily or not) restrict the behaviour of all other persons in that society.

    By removing the attributes of that person -- and this is a thinking man's way of pointing out the ill design in the exercise -- Rawls wanted to make an impartial person. But society is not made of impartial people. A lot of people have the same goal and at the same time and in the same respect another lot of people may have an incompatible goal with the first lot. It is a fallacy to eradicate this difference by creating an imaginary society of "averaged" individuals, that is, individuals whose attributes are removed from them.

    So much for the realistic approach. But it is a fallacy in my thinking to think that the approach ought to be relalistic.

    So i ask you again to reword the problem. I don't ask you to make it realistic, but I ask you to say who this "client" is that, if satisfied, means that the society is just. It can't be so, unless all people in the socety are like the client, but that assumption is not mentioned, and it is of dire importance that it be. You see, a just society is just for all its members,not just for one. If it were true, he could be Nero, Caligula, or any number of present political leaders of countries.
  • Jasmine
    10
    this is the original activity https://crookedtimber.org/2004/03/18/game-on-rawlss-second-principle/ . I am just re-asking it here to try and gauge other peoples opinions. There is no right or wrong answer, its about how you perceive it and your reasoning's for why.

    The original position (OP) is a hypothetical thought experiment which aims to determine which principles should structure the ideal, just and fair society, made up of equals. To prevent people from acting out of self-interest and bettering themselves while designing this society, John Rawls proposed it should be designed by parties in the OP. This means the decision makers must make selections for society as if they were behind a” veil of ignorance”, with little knowledge about themselves, only basic biological and psychological information. This prevents them from knowing what their role in the future society will be, thus forcing participants to mutually agree on the principles and resource distribution rationally, fairly and impartially. The lack of self-knowledge is known as the OP.

    So this activity is basically that you are on a committee who needs to mutually agree on how society will be structured going forwards (it is all hypothetical) . You will also be apart of that society, however when designing the society you are in a state of mind that you don't know who you are or who anyone else is (this is called the original position), in the new society you could be a postman or you could be a lawyer, so by being in the original position you will make an impartial decision that is fair and just to ALL within that society, and your choice/choices will govern the rest of all of your lives.

    The reason for the client aspect of the question, is because they want you to be able to explain why you chose the option/options that you did once you have made so they are pretending you made the choice for someone else, and are justifying your reasoning to them.

    I hope this is all making sense, its not my question or scenario. I'm just trying to figure out how other people would answer the question because I am stumped!
  • Outlander
    1k
    You have to come up with a principle of distributive justice that your client will be able to satisfactorily live under.Jasmine

    Easy.

    You will have to think about how you will justify your choice to your client when you find out who he or she is.Jasmine

    That doesn't mean satisfactorily convince them (ie. get them to "like it") does it? If so, not easy. No, right?

    which of the principles would you choose for your client, and why would you choose it?Jasmine

    Definitely 6. I suppose I'll come up with one if you wish. In the meantime, ere's what's wrong with 1 - 5, as I see it.

    1.) People need regulation, period. Without it everything- no matter how well planned and provided for- will undoubtedly degenerate into a race to the bottom ie. who can cut the most corners without there being nothing left. Never fails.

    2.) Sounds like The Sims: Hell Edition. Imagine getting up and doing anything, let alone honing a skill or talent, if you won't ever get anything from it. Eh I guess you'd gain influence and respect, which is cool, but what's to stop you from charging people/accepting gifts for your hard work? The government would come and arrest you and anyone who gave you anything? Scratch that, worse than Hell.

    3.) Yeah then everyone will try to join and flatly nod yes to whatever citizenship pledge is required to get the free stuff. Easiest, quickest way to turn a proud society of thinkers and doers into a menagerie for the lazy or inept.

    4.) This one is curious. You say "better off than they would be under any other arrangement", some problems you can't just throw money at to solve. If you don't instill knowledge, craft, and work ethic they are most certainly not "better off" just because you provide a few bucks to not starve and a transient portal of 'opportunity' to succeed based on the terms of others that clearly did not work for them.

    5.) See number 2.

    --

    On a side note, I thought the OP sounded peculiar/interestingly formatted. No worries OP, it's a common sight here. Are you by chance from Australia, OP?
  • Jasmine
    10
    thank you for this!

    You just need to be able to explain why you chose the option that you did, in your case option 6. So you don't need to convince them to agree with you, you just have to be able to explain and justify why you chose the way you did.

    Number 2 and 5 made me laugh, I thought sims too when I first read this activity! I would love to hear what you come up with for option 6 and why!

    I am drawn to 6 too as I see problems with each of the five other options.. But I have no idea what the ideal just and fair society where everyone had resources distributed evenly would look like! Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Cheers
  • Jasmine
    10
    I am from New Zealand, your close haha
  • Outlander
    1k
    I am drawn to 6 too as I see problems with each of the five other options.Jasmine

    That's essentially my reasoning for choosing said option as well.

    But I have no idea what the ideal just and fair society where everyone had resources distributed evenly would look like! Would love to hear your thoughts!Jasmine

    The premise you speak of seems, at least to myself, to involve some sort of 'global reset' to actualize. A just and fair society is where one's efforts, within the confines of agreed upon terms and codes of universal morality, turn into one's gains. There has been much hardship, cruelty, and unjust gains throughout the course of human history sure, but there have also been many of the opposite. I don't think we'd choose to ignore or otherwise toss aside the innovation and accomplishment that came about from unjust seizing of territory, genocide, etc. Would we? To what point would we ideally revert to? It just becomes infinitely complex.

    Take China, for example. It is now 92% Han Chinese significantly after the Warring States period. Is it just? Should the Qin, Chu, and other near-nonexistent minorities be allowed to flourish to former power and numbers? Do we just sweep all this under the rug and attempt to base our morality atop of grave immorality and hope for the best? What of slavery? Islamization of East Europe and Africa? Conquest of the Americas? Do we, again, ignore injustice that isn't quite yet ancient history and just move forward from there? Perhaps. Only, there are significant numbers of others who may disagree.

    Assuming we collectively decide to ignore all that and let bygones be bygones, and everyone (or I suppose a large enough majority of those impacted [who can actually resist- as if that were just]) agree. Where do we go from there? Hypothetically, as a thought experiment, which could only happen with a single world government anyhow.. every single human being on Earth is kept exactly where they are, as they are. All their wealth, including deeds to any land beyond where they currently reside (which is still impossible seeing as some wealthy individuals live in mansions that could house entire villages), are taken (or in the mansion scenario converted into something of a dormitory where the current owner is the landlord [maybe?]), and each person is given say... some currently non-existent form of currency that would then be recognized as the one and only currency. What of education? Some first world areas have the greatest academics and their citizenry reflect that. In some third world countries it's the opposite. It's just not a feasible, reasonable discussion to have, really. Even if we're only talking within the confines of small, localized areas or individual nation states. Though, that would make it at least realistic. If not in the confines of what is accepted as moral and what isn't as dictated by said society/nation.

    IMO, it just wouldn't happen. Every country wants to be the "beacon of the world" for opportunity or just to be the best place to do business ie. grow wealth. If one starts to do something like I described, unless they literally hold their citizens hostage, those who actually have something to lose vs. gain (ie. the wealthy, which often include the innovators, hard workers, geniuses, etc.) would just want to go there instead. And shoot, why would that country want to change that. They'd be foolish to do so. It all just sounds like a pipe dream to be honest, for a time at least.
  • Jasmine
    10
    you make some great points.

    I agree that we can't just wipe all injustices and pretend to live in a happy world where we are all equal and have equal resources, because that just isn't feasible.

    Assuming we collectively decide to ignore all that and let bygones be bygones, and everyone (or I suppose a large enough majority of those impacted [who can actually resist- as if that were just]) agree. Where do we go from there?Outlander
    - I guess what the activity wants is for you to explain why you choose to formulate an entirely different principle, what it would look like (a breif description like options 1-5) and how you would explain this decision to society. Feel free to expand on this! Its super interesting (for me anyway!)

    But for argument sakes, if you were in the original position and were going into this society that is hypothetically being created, we aren't talking world wide, perhaps just the country you live in.. you are under the veil of ignorance, your not sure of your race, religious beliefs, financial situation etc and you are designing this ideally fair and just country where everyone is equal and has the same resources readily available, knowing you will be living there and whatever you chose will govern the rest of your life. which principle or principles would you choose from the 5 provided? I know they all have their issues but if you had to decide what would you choose? Remember you know nothing of your life or situation so you need to make the decision for the whole society rationally, fairly and impartially.
  • unenlightened
    5.5k
    The difficulty with the original position is that one comes to it from somewhere. One brings an idea of human nature. for example:

    People need regulation, period.Outlander
    everyone will try to join and flatly nod yes to whatever citizenship pledge is required to get the free stuff.Outlander

    And also an idea of social and economic conditions. In this case the alternatives presented do this already.

    1. Laissez Faire: Markets will operate without government intervention, except
    to protect private property (including intellectual property through patenting
    and copyrighting legislation) and to place modest limits on the emergence of
    oligopolistic and monopolistic markets.
    Jasmine

    Patents and copyright are only really affordable by developed industrial societies. To a medieval monk copying was a heroic contribution to civilisation. This is not even a possible scenario for most of history, so it is clear that the society we are being unbiased about is ... ahem... our own. Coincidence?
  • Outlander
    1k
    One brings an idea of human nature.unenlightened

    It brings itself quite well unfortunately. I'm not saying my sentiments are reflective of society as a whole or even the majority of persons, simply that 99.9% of persons in a hypothetical quarantine can be healthy or otherwise non-infectious, but if you don't plan- and carefully- for that single person who may be, you could easily end up with a nationwide outbreak on your hands.
  • Outlander
    1k
    you are designing this ideally fair and just country where everyone is equal and has the same resources readily available, knowing you will be living there and whatever you chose will govern the rest of your life. which principle or principles would you choose from the 5 provided?Jasmine

    Doesn't this already include options 2, 4, and 5? Rather, what is the difference between 2 and 5, and does it not render 4 null? I see number 2 as being a more restrictive version of 5, is that correct? 2 says available to them (presumably from the government?), so that is not saying persons must have identical wealth/resources by government mandate, yes? Or does it? 5 being just like stimulus checks basically, no strings attached, everyone gets (slightly less) than 'basic needs met' thus differentiating itself from 3?

    Sounds difficult to answer as presented in an absolute and resolute manner. Not only is each option lacking important circumstantial information (background factors, restrictions, what "counts" and what "doesn't", etc.) they well, yeah essentially seem open to interpretation ie. everyone can have their own definition/understanding of what each option entails with no one being more or less correct or incorrect than the other.

    Awaiting your response.. However if the part I've placed in bold is definitive of what my answer will be, it's pretty much set with little wiggle room. Everyone is equal, and they have the same resources readily available. Provided 'resources readily available' is a floor not a ceiling ie. someone can still end up stupidly wealthy (ideally through hard work) and be much better off than someone who isn't (ideally due to personal sloth/laziness), there's little to change in most countries. There's welfare for those who may have fallen behind or otherwise need it for reasons other than laziness, disability to those who are disabled/not able-bodied (which is an amazing modern day accomplishment), and various grants for those who exhibit admirable drive or skill in their endeavors so that they may further propel not only themselves but their nations forward.

    Assuming I spawn in this RPG experiment as a very low-skilled, inconceivably lazy person with low education and nearly no money, intelligence, or drive, it would seem the obvious choice would be 3. Maybe. Assuming jobs are readily available where I can do something menial and simple that pays enough to sustain myself, perhaps I'd realize somewhere down the road I don't want my beloved hypothetical nation to become flooded with persons who couldn't care less (or perhaps even wish) whether we're wiped off the map or not provided they get the free stuff. Like I said, very complicated, many factors poorly defined.
  • Todd Martin
    210
    Just a possible contribution to this discussion, which, honestly, didn’t interest me enough to follow it particularly closely:

    “History and social science are used in a variety of ways to overcome prejudice. We should not be ethnocentric, a term drawn from anthropology, which tells us more about the meaning of openness. We should not think our way is better than others. The intention is not so much to teach the students about other times and places as to make them aware of the fact that their preferences are only that—accidents of their time and place. Their beliefs do not entitle them as individuals, or collectively as a nation, to think they are superior to anyone else. John Rawls is almost a parody of this tendency, writing hundreds of pages to persuade men, and proposing a scheme of government that would force them, not to despise anyone. In A Theory of Justice, he writes that the physicist or poet should not look down on the man who spends his life counting blades of grass or performing any other frivolous or corrupt activity. Indeed, he should be esteemed, since esteem from others, as opposed to self-esteem, is a basic need of all men. So indiscriminateness is a moral imperative because it’s opposite is discrimination. This folly means that men are not permitted to seek for the natural human good and admire it when found, for such discovery is coeval with the discovery of the bad and contempt for it. Instinct and intellect must be suppressed by education. The natural soul is to be replaced by an artificial one.”

    Nota bene: I have never bothered to read Rawls.
  • unenlightened
    5.5k
    It brings itself quite well unfortunately. I'm not saying my sentiments are reflective of society as a whole or even the majority of persons, simply that 99.9% of persons in a hypothetical quarantine can be healthy or otherwise non-infectious, but if you don't plan- and carefully- for that single person who may be, you could easily end up with a nationwide outbreak on your hands.Outlander

    I disagree, but that is because I bring another idea of human nature to the original table, to the one that it is silly to pretend you are not bringing. This is not the place to argue out who is right, though, and I simply used your words as an example. Rawls speaks to educated white males of like mind, and comes up with a society rather like US society. He thinks this is the fairest in the land because he is looking in the magic mirror of his peers.

    These chaps would bring a fresh perspective to things in the original position: -

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/strange-island-pacific-tribesmen-come-study-britain-5329192.html

    The series, 'Meet the Natives' is very instructive and entertaining.
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