Essay #2 PHIL 4
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verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
Popular in PHIL-Philosophy
This 7 page Bundle was uploaded by Maddie Cooke on Thursday March 10, 2016. The Bundle belongs to PHIL 4 at University of California Santa Barbara taught by Quentin Gee in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 34 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Ethics in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California Santa Barbara.
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Date Created: 03/10/16
Madeline Cooke Introduction to Ethics Professor Quentin Gee TA: Cloos Word Count: 1,944 March 3, 2016 Rawls versus Nozick: What is Just? While both Rawls and Nozick focus on the principle of justice, and how goods in a society should be distributed, they differ greatly in their views. Rawls asserts that the principles of justice are founded upon the liberty principle, which ensures the equal assignment of basic liberties to people, and the difference principle, which states that socioeconomic inequalities are only just if they benefit those who are the least advantaged in a society. On the other hand, Nozick advocates for a minimal state, similar to that of anarchocapitalism. In this state, he believes that it is just for people to receive distributions based on a principle of entitlement, which directly contradicts Rawls’ principle of distribution. While I agree with Rawls on his “justice as fairness” concept, I find Nozick’s principle of entitlement to be more convincing because it eliminates the problem of “free riders” in a society, and encourages progress. Rawls asserts that justice is the most important aspect of a social institution, much like truth is of “systems of thought.” For example, if a theory is untrue, it must be revised; likewise, if a law is unjust, it must be reformed or abolished. The role of justice, Rawls argues, is to protect the rights of all individuals fairly and equally. He believes that the loss of freedom for some cannot be outweighed by the advantages given to many, and in this regard rejects a basic principle of utilitarianism. This means that a just society must consider the rights of individuals equally, and these rights cannot be subject to “political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.” After establishing justice as the most important aspect of a social institution, and identifying the role of justice within a society, he continues on to clarify his conception of justice. Rawls presents his conception of justice in the form of two principles: first, the liberty principleequality in the assignment and protection of basic “liberties,”such as rights, duties, and advantages; and second, the difference principle social and economic inequalities are just only if they are beneficial to everyone, especially for those least advantaged in a society. Rawls establishes his theory of “justice as fairness” based upon these principles by using the social contract approach. This contract theory refers to the voluntary agreement among individuals by which an organized society is created. This theory postulates that people within a society recognize certain rules of conduct, whose goal is to advance the good of those within that society. An individual benefits from participating in a society, rather than by being alone. But, there is a conflict of interest: nobody is indifferent to the distribution of societal benefits and would prefer a greater share of benefits, and a lesser share of the burdens. For example, everyone wants the benefits of protection of property and access to public works, but nobody wants to pay taxes to receive those benefits. This conflict of interest gives way to differing conceptions of justice. Rawls seeks to find a common ground among individual’s opinions on justice that, when accumulated, will form a social system based upon what he refers to as “justice as fairness.” To get to this common ground, he deploys an argument whereby people in an “original position,” or natural state, make decisions about the legislation of their social structure and attempt to make their own conceptions of justice. These conceptions of justice are chosen behind a “veil of ignorance”: the subject does not know their position in society, economic class, race, sexual identity, natural talents or abilities, or anything of the sort the subject has no psychological predisposition. Rawls refers to the reasoning technique used here as “reflective equilibrium,” and posits that behind the veil of ignorance, reasonable people will default to socioeconomic positions that will maximize profits for the worst off in case they happen to become one of the poor. This concept is closely related to that of the “prisoner’s dilemma” in game theory, which demonstrates that humans display a systematic bias towards cooperative behavior, much more so than predicted by models of seemingly rational selfinterested action. This is what justifies a (somewhat) equal distribution of benefits among members of a society. In response to Rawls, Nozick argues that the “minimal state” devoted to protecting people against crime and to enforcing contract right is the only justifiable state. Any more extensive state violates the people’s rights. He examines the claim that a more extensive state is justifiable because it is necessary to achieve “distributive justice,” but ultimately denies it. To understand Nozick’s argument for a minimal state, we must first investigate the implications of distributive justice. Nozick defines distributive justice as the theories concerning a just arrangement in the distribution of benefits and burdens in a system of social cooperation. He warns that the word “distribution” is not a neutral term, implying a mechanism in which a supply of things are given out. This also implies that redistribution is justified if the distribution mechanism is unfair. In reality, there is no central distribution in control of how things are distributed; the only way an individual can receive something is from his or her own labor or from exchange with others. He exemplifies this when he says that much like there is no “distribution of mates” in a society, there is no “distribution of wealth.” Therefore, “distributions” are the results of individual decisions, which are just in a free society. Finally, Nozick says that a better term for the word “distributions” is the term “holdings,” which refers to the goods (and their economic value) that we hold as people. In order to determine what is just in terms of holdings, we must establish a principle of justice in holdings. Nozick refers to justice in holdings as “entitlement,” and says that there are three major principles that make up this entitlement. The first principle, “justice in acquisition,” says holdings are just if they are acquired without force, fraud, or theft. The second principle, “justice in transfer,” says you may transfer your holding to anyone you so please. A transfer must not be forced, or the result of fraud the person transferring a holding cannot have acquired that holding unjustly. Lastly, the third principle is known as the “rectification of injustice.” This principle questions how we handle certain injustices. It takes into account how things were distributed in the past to determine how people’s holdings would look if these instances of injustice did not occur. Stemming from these principles, Nozick argues that in a just world, justice in holdings can be defined as: firstly, a person who acquires a holding justly is entitled to that holding; secondly, you may acquire a just holding from someone else if the trade is in accordance with justice in transfer; finally, you are only entitled to a holding if acquired through either of the above requirements. Therefore, if every person in a society has holdings that are just, the distributions of holdings in a society are just. Almost every suggested principle of distribution is a patterned one, except for the principle of entitlement. A principle of distribution is patterned if its distribution varies in response to the different levels of a quality, such as distribution based on I.Q. or moral merit. According to Nozick, the actual distribution in holdings is irrelevant, as long as it was done so justly. Nozick investigates the work of Friedrich von Hayek, who proposed that a justifiable pattern of distribution can be based on the perceived benefits given to others. Nozick notes that Hayek successfully explains why people engage in transfer, but says that entitlement theory doesn’t require a pattern because “distribution according to benefits to others is a major patterned strand in a free capitalist society… but it is only a strand and does not constitute the whole pattern of a system of entitlements (namely, inheritance, gifts for arbitrary reasons, charity, and so on) or a standard that one should insist a society fit.” This means that not all transfers, specifically gifts, must conform to a rational pattern. Nozick addresses the problem of whether or not irrational transfers are just in the Wilt Chamberlain example, where Wilt Chamberlain charges an extra 25 cents per ticket for fans to see him play basketball. “Since in a capitalist society people often transfer holdings to others in accordance with how much they perceive these others benefiting them, the fabric constituted by the individual transactions and transfers is largely reasonable and intelligible.” The fans willingly transferred their money to Wilt to watch him play, therefore he acquired the money justly. Therefore, the state cannot take money from Wilt and redistribute it to the people. This is how, Nozick argues, liberty upsets patterns. “The system of entitlements is defensible when constituted by the individual aims of individual transactions. No overarching aim is needed, no distributional pattern is required.” So, entitlement theory does not have a pattern. In fact, a patterned conception of entitlement will require unfair, continuous interference by the state to achieve its “ideal” pattern of holdings among individuals. The primary difference between Nozick and Rawls lies in their opinions on redistribution of wealth. Nozick replaces Rawls “difference principle” with his “entitlement theory,” which does not allow for people to acquire holdings from social programs, or “safety nets.” Even though their opinions are different, both Nozick and Rawls have developed theories that rate a society’s success based on how well it adheres to the models they created, rather than how well its laws produce universally beneficial outcomes. Even though Nozick does not agree to wealth redistribution, he acknowledges that some holdings may have been acquired unjustly, and agrees that a Rawlslike difference principle is just. (This is based on the premise that those who are the least welloff have the highest probability of being descended from victims of injustice.) Nozick also, more or less, retains Rawls’ liberty principle. I found Nozick’s argument against redistribution to be more convincing because it eliminates the possibility of “free riders” in a society and encourages progress. While it is true that Nozick doesn’t address the issue of one’s “initial position” in society, someone’s initial position will not determine their socioeconomic position for the rest of their lives. For example, the Vanderbilts, Hartfords, Kluges, Strohs, and Pulitzers, who were at one point the wealthiest families in america, all lost that wealth for various reasons. Countless immigrants have moved to America to follow “The American Dream,” started with nothing, and made fortunes (or at least bettered their standing) for themselves and their families. Nozick’s view of “you get what you earn” encourages people to work harder in order to earn more. Because people, generally, want to earn more, they will work more and advance society by doing so. This is how his principle of entitlement encourages progress. When you eliminate the incentive to work, by providing people with “safety nets,” you create an economic problem known as the problem of “free riders.” This is when individuals in a society benefit from an accruing collective effort, but contribute little or nothing to this effort. How does that fit into Rawls’ idea of “fairness,” when the amount of work two individuals are doing is not equal? All in all, Rawls argues for a social institution based on justice as fairness, while Nozick advocates for one based on entitlement, which is the main difference between the two. Nozick doesn’t necessarily deny Rawls’ liberty principle, but directly contradicts his difference principle by introducing the entitlement principle. Both deal with the legitimacy of governmental distribution of wealth, but I agree more with Nozick’s point of view because it encourages growth and discourages free riders.
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