Veil of Ignorance

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WanderingGaze22
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Veil of Ignorance

Post by WanderingGaze22 »

If justice is blind, is our establishment of society no different?

Suppose that you and a group of people who represent various boroughs or something similar debate on the basis that would bring about a new society. However, none of you know anything about the role you will have in that society. You could end up being anything from a judge to janitor. Elements such as your ethnicity, income level,education, gender, religion, work experience, and personal preferences are all unknown to you. After you decide on those principles, you will then be turned out into the society you established.

John Rawls, the creator of this experiment argues that in this situation we can’t know what our self-interest is so we cannot pursue it. Without that tidbit to go on, he suggests that we would all attempt to create a fair society with equal rights and economic security for the underprivileged and working class both out of moral considerations and as a means to best resolve the possible worst-case scenarios for us when we step outside that veil. Others have disagreed, arguing that we would seek only to maximize our freedom or assure perfect equality.

This of course raises questions for the current state of our society, as it suggests we allow self-interest to get in the way of progressing towards an ideal way of life. Rawls’ ideas about the just society are fascinating and can be delved into this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-JQ17X6VNg&t=.

And so, the question is: How would that society turn out? What exactly does that mean for our society now?
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chewybrian
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by chewybrian »

This is an interesting thought experiment. Of course, one assumes that the society that would come about is the one we should be trying to create right now. The problems holding us back now are that some of us are selfish and clever and many of us are selfish but not so clever. Some of us are gathering far more than we need, and some of us are easily manipulated by those clever selfish folks into thinking we are working in our own selfish interests when we are being duped into working for theirs. Further, some of us prefer wishes over evident truth, and will convince ourselves that following the wishes is somehow noble, and ignore the good we could have done by instead accepting reality for what it appears to be. There aren't many left who prefer justice over selfishness and are wise enough and motivated enough to make progress toward that end. Even if they are, not much progress will be made if most people won't listen.

But, if we had to start over not knowing our resources, capacities or even preferences, presumably we would look to ensure that everyone had both opportunity and security. These new rules would effectively block all our prejudices from ruling over our good judgement.

One problem I can see is that we can still act selfishly under these rules, in the sense that we can set preferences for people who are alive now in favor of future humans, and in favor of other conscious beings. We could put aside rules about pollution or protections for endangered species or laws against cruel treatment of farm animals in favor of more production of goods today. I imagine there are a few other ways our selfishness could creep into the mix.
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GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

WanderingGaze22 wrote: November 29th, 2021, 3:15 am If justice is blind, is our establishment of society no different?

Suppose that you and a group of people who represent various boroughs or something similar debate on the basis that would bring about a new society. However, none of you know anything about the role you will have in that society. You could end up being anything from a judge to janitor. Elements such as your ethnicity, income level,education, gender, religion, work experience, and personal preferences are all unknown to you. After you decide on those principles, you will then be turned out into the society you established.
The specific problem with Rawls's "veil of ignorance" is that inserting it as a condition of the "original position" is question-begging. Per Rawls, the task of the parties is to formulate "basic principles of justice" for a society in which they will be members. The parties in the original position debate behind a "veil of ignorance" --- they have no information concerning, not only such irrelevant factors as their own sex and ethnicity, but also concerning their own personal interests, strengths, handicaps, talents, values, etc.

They do, however, have general information about human nature and human societies, including that those interests, talents, etc., vary from person to person, and that those differences lead to different levels of well-being --- in wealth, status, influence, etc. They will also know that those latter differences will naturally arise, and that they can only be mitigated by seizing wealth from the better off and delivering it to those less well-off, and somehow suppressing the status and influence of the better off and artificially enhancing them for the less well off.

So if they, in order to minimize their own risks in the society whose "basic rules" they are debating, opt for Rawls's maximin principle, they will have already decided that "justice" requires mitigating natural inequalities, that robbing "the rich" to aid "the poor" is morally acceptable --- which is question-begging. (It is also worth noting that Rawls's debaters are assumed to be motivated, not by general considerations regarding the nature of justice, but by self-interest).

The broader, and deeper, problem with Rawls's theory is the premise upon which it rests, i.e., that the aim of political philosophy is to identify or devise principles of "social justice" --- a vacuous term arising from embrace of the "organic fallacy": the assumption that modern, civilized societies are "organic unities" --- collectives, giant co-ops, or "big happy families." But they aren't.
WanderingGaze22
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by WanderingGaze22 »

GE Morton wrote: November 29th, 2021, 3:41 pm The broader, and deeper, problem with Rawls's theory is the premise upon which it rests, i.e., that the aim of political philosophy is to identify or devise principles of "social justice" --- a vacuous term arising from embrace of the "organic fallacy": the assumption that modern, civilized societies are "organic unities" --- collectives, giant co-ops, or "big happy families." But they aren't.
There is truth in that; the whole of society began as a cohesive unit, but in the long term that slowly starts to drift apart. Do you believe society requires striving towards a goal in order to achieve the functionality we want to see in our community. After all, struggle is the genuine test of character that most people would focus on, especially in history.
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LuckyR
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by LuckyR »

WanderingGaze22 wrote: November 29th, 2021, 3:15 am If justice is blind, is our establishment of society no different?

Suppose that you and a group of people who represent various boroughs or something similar debate on the basis that would bring about a new society. However, none of you know anything about the role you will have in that society. You could end up being anything from a judge to janitor. Elements such as your ethnicity, income level,education, gender, religion, work experience, and personal preferences are all unknown to you. After you decide on those principles, you will then be turned out into the society you established.

John Rawls, the creator of this experiment argues that in this situation we can’t know what our self-interest is so we cannot pursue it. Without that tidbit to go on, he suggests that we would all attempt to create a fair society with equal rights and economic security for the underprivileged and working class both out of moral considerations and as a means to best resolve the possible worst-case scenarios for us when we step outside that veil. Others have disagreed, arguing that we would seek only to maximize our freedom or assure perfect equality.

This of course raises questions for the current state of our society, as it suggests we allow self-interest to get in the way of progressing towards an ideal way of life. Rawls’ ideas about the just society are fascinating and can be delved into this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-JQ17X6VNg&t=.

And so, the question is: How would that society turn out? What exactly does that mean for our society now?
Just as there is a normal distribution of opinions right now (without a veil of ignorance) there would also be a distribution of opinions with the veil. The reason is that folks are not only motivated by self interest.

For example, there are folks in the top 2% of wealth right now who are in favor of increasing the income taxes on their own bracket (as well as the brackets above themselves) which will lower their personal wealth because they feel that the current wealth distribution is off kilter.

Similarly, back before 1963 there were poor folk who felt that the top income tax rate of 91% for millionaires (there weren't billionaires back then) was too high.
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EricPH
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by EricPH »

About half the world population earns less than $5.50 per day.
About 1,8 billion live on less than $3.20 per day.

We all have a good idea of what true justice should look like, but it will never happen.

I would like to see Donald Trump and the billionaire club living on $10 a day; sadly this will never happen either.
GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

EricPH wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:23 pm About half the world population earns less than $5.50 per day.
That is because they produce less than $5.50 in wealth per day.
About 1,8 billion live on less than $3.20 per day.

We all have a good idea of what true justice should look like, but it will never happen.

I would like to see Donald Trump and the billionaire club living on $10 a day; sadly this will never happen either.
I suspect you're equating justice with equality, which is a false equivalence.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by Pattern-chaser »

GE Morton wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:55 pm I suspect you're equating justice with equality, which is a false equivalence.
Is it? Such an equivalence seems to me to be a moral value judgement, and I can see no reason to forbid that particular value or judgement. There are other values, and judgements, of course...
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GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

Pattern-chaser wrote: December 1st, 2021, 11:10 am
GE Morton wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:55 pm I suspect you're equating justice with equality, which is a false equivalence.
Is it? Such an equivalence seems to me to be a moral value judgement, and I can see no reason to forbid that particular value or judgement. There are other values, and judgements, of course...
The meanings of words are not value judgments; they are conventions accepted in a given speech community, and necessary in order for verbal communication to be possible.

Justice is apportionment of rewards or punishments in accordance with merit:

"1a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments."

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justice

Justice involves the notion of merit. It only requires equality when claims have equal merit. E.g., a worker who produces $100 worth of goods merits $100. The worker who produces $10 worth merits $10.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by Pattern-chaser »

GE Morton wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:55 pm I suspect you're equating justice with equality, which is a false equivalence.
Pattern-chaser wrote: December 1st, 2021, 11:10 am Is it? Such an equivalence seems to me to be a moral value judgement, and I can see no reason to forbid that particular value or judgement. There are other values, and judgements, of course...
GE Morton wrote: December 1st, 2021, 11:51 am The meanings of words are not value judgments; they are conventions accepted in a given speech community, and necessary in order for verbal communication to be possible.
Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, I agree that the words should not be equated, as they are usually used to refer to different things. But I don't think the "equivalence" that you commented on was such a literal comparison. I think it was a conflation, in a specific context, of the concepts these words refer to.
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GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

Pattern-chaser wrote: December 1st, 2021, 12:33 pm
Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, I agree that the words should not be equated, as they are usually used to refer to different things. But I don't think the "equivalence" that you commented on was such a literal comparison. I think it was a conflation, in a specific context, of the concepts these words refer to.
I'm not sure of the point you're making there, PC.
EricPH
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by EricPH »

GE Morton wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:55 pm
EricPH wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:23 pm About half the world population earns less than $5.50 per day.
That is because they produce less than $5.50 in wealth per day.
I would suggest it is because they are exploited. Apple pay their Chinese workers a couple of dollars and hour. They know if the factory was in the US; they would have to pay US wages; then the shareholders would miss out.
GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

EricPH wrote: December 1st, 2021, 7:14 pm
I would suggest it is because they are exploited.
Ah, there's that vacuous Marxist dogma again. Presumably it means "to take unfair advantage of." But no wage or payment freely offered for a good or service by an employer or customer and freely accepted by an employee or seller is "unfair." The accusation is specious demagoguery.
Apple pay their Chinese workers a couple of dollars and hour. They know if the factory was in the US; they would have to pay US wages; then the shareholders would miss out.
No, the customers would miss out, by being forced to pay a higher price for the product, or doing without it, due to arbitrary government dictates.
EricPH
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by EricPH »

GE Morton wrote: December 1st, 2021, 8:23 pm
No, the customers would miss out, by being forced to pay a higher price for the product, or doing without it.
You seem happy to accept that people work under barbaric conditions; just so the spoilt elite can have cheap toys. You presumable accept that the Apple bosses can take billions out the company and get away with paying their workers a couple of dollars an hour.
GE Morton
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Re: Veil of Ignorance

Post by GE Morton »

EricPH wrote: December 3rd, 2021, 9:25 am
You seem happy to accept that people work under barbaric conditions; just so the spoilt elite can have cheap toys.
They work under "barbaric" conditions so they can put food on the table and a roof over their heads, just as humans have always done. You seem to think their employers, and the customers for the products they help make, have some duty to improve their conditions. They don't. They are not their employees' mommies or daddies. Employers pay the least they can --- which means the least the employee will accept --- for the work they want done, just as they do for all the other services and materials they buy, and just as you do when you buy a new teevee or new car.
You presumable accept that the Apple bosses can take billions out the company and get away with paying their workers a couple of dollars an hour.
The bosses are paid what their services are worth on the market, just as are all other employees of the company. Businesses are not charities.
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