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Application to Questions of Justice and Social Welfare: Introduction Nanoethics Lecture IV Roderick T. Long Auburn Dept. of Philosophy.

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Presentation on theme: "Application to Questions of Justice and Social Welfare: Introduction Nanoethics Lecture IV Roderick T. Long Auburn Dept. of Philosophy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Application to Questions of Justice and Social Welfare: Introduction Nanoethics Lecture IV Roderick T. Long Auburn Dept. of Philosophy

2 Distributive Justice How should the benefits of, and/or the control over, nanotechnology be distributed? Moral issue: principles Practical issue: implementation

3 John Rawls ( ) Most influential theory of distributive justice in recent decades: A Theory of Justice (1971) Political Liberalism (1993) Justice As Fairness (2001)

4 John Rawls ( ) A version of contractarianism (standard of rightness is what rational people do, or under appropriate conditions would, agree to) but influenced by Kant (principles must be universalizable and treat people as ends, not mere means)

5 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Considerations that block consensus on principles of justice are also unfair to rely on in choosing such principles: how they impact - one’s interest group - one’s conception of the good

6 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Choose principles of justice as though you don’t know your interest group (race, gender, income, age, health, etc.) and conception of the good (religious, moral, and lifestyle preferences)

7 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Maximin: choose the option whose worst possible outcome is preferable to the worst possible outcome of any rival option. Not a general principle of choice, but a cautious principle for life-affecting decisions. (Does this favor risk-averse conceptions of the good?)

8 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Choose the pie whose smallest piece is bigger than the smallest piece of any rival pie

9 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Egalitarian Rawlsian Utilitarian choice choice choice

10 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Different conceptions of the common good: Utilitarian: aggregate advantage (allows sacrifice of few to many) Rawlsian: mutual advantage (no sacrifice)

11 Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance The size of a pie of material wealth (and thus the size of its smallest piece) can be affected by how the pieces are distributed (e.g., incentives) The size of a pie of liberty cannot be. Hence: different principles for liberty and for wealth

12 Rawls’ First Principle of Justice Maximum liberty for each, so far as is consistent with equal liberty for all

13 Rawls’ Second Principle of Justice Socioeconomic inequalities permissible only if: a) open to all b) beneficial to the least advantaged

14 Question of Implementation Which politico- economic system in fact best satisfies these principles? Capitalism? Socialism? something else?

15 Question of Implementation Rawls: largely a question for social scientists, not moral philosophers Ethics sets the standards Economics figures out how to meet them

16 Some Critics of Rawls Robert Nozick Michael Sandel Susan Okin

17 Criticisms of Rawls Why does hypothetical consent matter?

18 Criticisms of Rawls Why does hypothetical consent matter? Are omitted considerations crucial to our identity (Sandel) and/or to our rights (Nozick)?

19 Criticisms of Rawls Why does hypothetical consent matter? Are omitted considerations crucial to our identity (Sandel) and/or to our rights (Nozick)? Does the enforcement of the 2 nd principle violate the liberty protected by the 1 st ?

20 A Feminist Criticism Insofar as Rawls is concerned with the distribution of benefits and burdens within society rather than within the family, doesn’t his approach fail to address: a) women’s disproportionate burden of labor within the household b) the family’s role as the context in which expectations of justice are learned?

21 An Anarchist Criticism Doesn’t the implementation of Rawls’ principles presuppose without argument the legitimacy of the State? Why would people behind the veil of ignorance agree to give this one institution powers denied to all others?

22 More Criticisms of Rawls Is the 1 st principle too skeptical/relativist about the good?

23 More Criticisms of Rawls Is the 1 st principle too skeptical/relativist about the good? Does the 2 nd principle require too little equality?

24 More Criticisms of Rawls Is the 1 st principle too skeptical/relativist about the good? Does the 2 nd principle require too little equality? Does the 2 nd principle require too much equality?

25 More Criticisms of Rawls Is the 1 st principle too skeptical/relativist about the good? Does the 2 nd principle require too little equality? Does the 2 nd principle require too much equality? Does the 2 nd principle treat persons as mere means?

26 Some of Rawls’ Replies Given human fallibility, unfair to insist on any conception of the good one wouldn’t agree to behind the Veil of Ignorance.

27 Some of Rawls’ Replies Given human fallibility, unfair to insist on any conception of the good one wouldn’t agree to behind the Veil of Ignorance. Given dependence of assets (natural or external) on luck, unfair to insist on pre-Veil rights to these

28 Possible Counter-replies Why does human fallibility impact conceptions of the good but not conceptions of justice?

29 Possible Counter-replies Why does human fallibility impact conceptions of the good but not conceptions of justice? Why do considerations of luck affect one’s assets but not one’s human status?

30 Rawls vs. Critics And the debate continues ….


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