The most striking feature of the original position is the veil ofignorance, which prevents arbitrary facts about citizens frominfluencing the agreement among their representatives. As we haveseen, Rawls holds that the fact that a citizen is of a certain race,class, and gender is no reason for social institutions to favor ordisfavor her. Each representative in the original position istherefore deprived of knowledge of the race, class, and gender of thereal citizen that they represent. In fact, the veil of ignorancedeprives the parties of all facts about citizens that are irrelevantto the choice of principles of justice: not only facts about theirrace, class, and gender but also facts about their age, naturalendowments, and more. Moreover the veil of ignorance also screens outspecific information about what society is like right now, so as toget a clearer view of the permanent features of a just socialsystem.
Rawls argues that the parties will see that his two principles arecongruent with each citizen's good. Under the two principles, thesociety's basic institutions affirm the freedom and equality of eachcitizen, giving a public basis for each citizen's self-respect. Thispublic basis of self-respect is vital for citizens to be able topursue their life plans with energy and confidence. Citizens will alsosee that the basic liberties allow sufficient social space for them topursue their reasonable conceptions of the good. Whether poor or rich,citizens will tend not to be envious or imperious, as they will seehow the economy works toward the reciprocal advantage of all. Andcitizens may be satisfied by reflecting on the collective good thatthey can achieve with each other, by working to maintain justinstitutions over time.
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Rawls puts forward the original position as a useful device forreaching greater reflective equilibrium. He holds that the value ofthe original position as a method of reasoning is affirmed when itselects the first principle of justice, since the first principleaccords with many people's settled convictions about the importance ofassuring the basic rights and liberties for all. Having gainedcredibility by confirming these settled moral judgments, the originalposition then goes on to select principles for issues on whichpeople's judgments may be less certain, such as how society shouldstructure employment opportunities, and what a just distribution ofwealth and income might be.
Philosophy - New World Encyclopedia
The international original position parallels the domestic originalposition of justice as fairness. This original position answers thequestion: “What terms of cooperation would free and equalpeoples (liberal and decent) agree to under fair conditions?”The strategy is to build the conception of peoples into the design ofthis original position, along with restrictions on reasons forfavoring basic principles of international law. The strategy, that is,is to describe reasonable conditions under which a rational agreementon principles can be made.
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One major reason that liberal peoples tolerate decent peoples, Rawlssays, is that decent peoples secure for all persons within theirterritory a core list of human rights. These core human rights includerights to subsistence, security, personal property, and formalequality before the law, as well as freedoms from slavery, protectionsof ethnic groups against genocide, and some measure of liberty ofconscience (but not, as we have seen, a right to democraticparticipation). These core human rights are the minimal conditionsrequired for persons to be able to engage in social cooperation in anyreal sense, so any well-ordered society must protect them.
Hick, John | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Decent peoples are not internally just from a liberalperspective. Their basic institutions do not recognize reasonablepluralism or embody any interpretation of the liberal ideas of freeand equal citizens cooperating fairly. The institutions of a decentsociety may be organized around a single comprehensive doctrine, suchas a dominant religion. The political system may not be democratic,and women or members of minority religions may be excluded from publicoffice. Nevertheless, decent peoples are well-ordered enough, Rawlssays, to merit equal membership in international society.