In Political Liberalism, Rawls argues against his critics, insisting that the original position was merely a thought experiment meant to aid in the intuitive realization of the principles of justice according to a uniform standard of fairness. This essay will briefly summarize the original position (and the veil of ignorance that completes it), explain the metaphysical view of the self the critics imply, and conclude by disagreeing with the critics, but wondering what Rawls is up to, if its not metaphysical.
In his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”, Robert Nozick offers the Wilt Chamberlain thought experiment in order to demonstrate how a conception of justice based on “end-state patterned distributions” (as he put it) would require constant coercive interventions on the part of the state, in order to maintain the desired pattern. This, in turn, would undermine theories of justice that incorporated liberty into their framework. John Rawls’ theory of justice is one such example. I will briefly outline the thought experiment and the problem it poses, consider some objections to Nozick, and conclude that despite these objections, Nozick succeeds.
In any given exchange market (whether free or otherwise), goods and services are traded as a matter of course, in the pursuit of both individual and social goals. Those trades will result in substantive outcomes both for the individuals involved in trades, and more broadly for society as a whole. It has been suggested that some of those outcomes may be undeserved. If we assume this to be the case, the question then arises, are undeserved market outcomes are unjust? Any reasonable answer to this question requires a coherent idea of justice within which we could determine what is deserved and undeserved, and judge the justice of those deserts. In the interest of space, this essay will briefly describe two essential notions of justice, and rule one of them out as the less coherent of the two. Once an acceptable sense of justice is established, I will then proceed to render a decision on the question of desert and justice in the market.