Essay about John Rawls: Legal Philosopher

Submitted By starbolt7
Words: 604
Pages: 3

John Bordley Rawls was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 21, 1921. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a chapter president of the League of Women’s Voters. Before college, Rawls was very religious, so much so that he considered studying to be a priest. However, he lost his faith after seeing so many sudden deaths and finding out about the Holocaust when serving in the Second World War. Rawls attended Princeton and Oxford, the latter being where he worked with and was influenced by people such as H.L.A. Hart and Isaiah Berlin. He started teaching at Harvard in 1962, and worked there for over thirty years, earning the title of University Professor in 1979. He died on November 24, 2002, in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Rawls’ most famous legal philosophy was justice as fairness. He believed that citizens are free and equal, and that society should be fair. Rawls thought that a ‘veil of ignorance’ would be beneficial to society and social classes. For example, one would not be born into a middle class family. The person wouldn’t know that they were middle class instead of high or third. Another example is racial identity. Someone black would not be defined as such; they would just be a person, as valued as anyone else. This idea is the same concerning labels such as gender, gifts, etc. The ‘veil of ignorance’ would only work in an equality-based society. Rawls thought that everything should be distributed equally unless uneven distribution helped society.

Rawls had two principles of justice as fairness. The first was: each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all. That means that every citizen has rights to the same fundamental liberties, which are the same liberties for everyone. No one gets special treatment. The second principle was: Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: a) They are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity and b) They are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society. This second principle means that any social or monetary inequalities are meant to either be given to job…