Is Rawlss Critique Of Utilitarianism Rational Philosophy Essay

The question we will package with immediately bring my attention; as Rawls focus on justice not only turns out to be theoretically relevant, but even particular taking into consideration the time it was shared, it results being determinant from a traditional viewpoint.

Indeed "A theory of justice" was written in 1971, in these years as we realize cold war reached its climax and compare between the Soviet Union and the United States was severe. These issues implied not only a political (and luckily not military) conflict, but at its deepest covering a difference in ideology, values, thought.

As well known the soviet model acquired its origins in Karl Marx's (1818-1883) communist philosophy while the american countries found their connection mainly in utilitarianism. These philosophies oppose in its assumptions and appear never to be appropriate witch one another. What Rawls proposes us is an innovating method for conjugate cultural justice and utilitarianism within an innovating if not ground-breaking theory of justice. He's considered to be the father of the "third way" among a centralized economy and laissez-faire.

As previously predicted the idea of justice also offers a fundamental theoretical value as it grades the turning point in a few very important and discussed conceptual variations which became part of nowadays political agenda.

Rawls famous theory of justice criticized utilitarianism at its origins. After a brief introduction about this issue of discourse, my attention is going to focus on the basic ideas of utilitarianism as it's the philosophical theory which opposes most to Rawls theory of justice.

We will analyze Rawls harm to utilitarian idea as discussed in his book: A theory of justice. Furthermore we will place our attention on why Rawls's judges utilitarianism wrong, and on other arguments against it.

John Rawls's thought

John Rawls is generally considered one of the most innovative and important thinker of the twentieth hundred years. Put in Amartya Sen's words:"By far the most influential - and I really believe the main - theory of justice to be provided in this hundred years has been John Rawls' Justice as fairness" (Sen, 1992:p. 75)

He was born in 1921 in the town of Baltimore, made his studies in Princeton and Oxford, before learning to be a professor in another of the most known universities of america: Harvard. He is usually known through his famous book "A theory of justice" (1971).

The philosopher cases that justice is the first requisite of social establishments, just just as as the quest for truth is the ultimate aim of any school of thought. His basic case is the fact that as a theory a needs to be discarded or at least evolved in its lacking parts if it is not true, in the same way institutions or laws have to be abolished or reformed if they are not fair.

He continues on saying that even if population all together might benefit from certain institution, they cannot be accepted and left set up if even only 1 person gets an unfair treatment because of their procedure.

"Each person owns an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of modern culture as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the increased loss of freedom for a few is manufactured right by a larger good shared by others. It generally does not allow that the sacrifices imposed over a few are outweighed by the bigger total of advantages savored by many. "( Rawls, John - A Theory of Justice (Belknap Press of Harvard University or college Press), 1971, p 3. )

As he defined his idea about justice, he wanted to give a rational groundwork to it. He wished to ensure that his justice assumptions were rational and distributed by all associates of modern culture. Given the actual fact that individuals are different and also have different seeks in life it's important to find some process that could be agreed on by all customers.

The way where people may find a general arrangement is perfectly known in beliefs and public sciences as general population law. What is being referred to is the thought of original position and veil of ignorance. Element of its great success is due to the amazing representation given by the author.

He imagines a so called original position where the single individuals make a decision the rules that may govern society. What is crucial is the actual fact that they do this choice in definite ignorance related to some relevant information of these future lives in culture. The arrangement is so being made in a condition of any veil of ignorance. This avoids the fact that some that will be born in an exceedingly rich family would clearly be against high income taxes to transfer some wealth to the worse off. The poor one on the other hands would definitely welcome such fees as they could profit from them. The people making the decision are thus offered as rational rather than thinking about others. Nobody could get an advantage from the choice of certain principles which would gain a certain category, as they would not know which role they are going to have in population.

To summarize we can say that the veil of ignorance has to exclude folks from the knowledge of facts which would bring them to own issues. Al the parties are identical in this position, indeed everyone could have the same protection under the law in proposing guidelines and recognizing them. The outcome of the decision contributes to a fair agreement since it is conducted in reasonable conditions. This is the reason why this theory is recognized as justice as fairness.

He areas that the philosopher which added most to the development of his theory has been Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), since Kant's ethic is based on the personal choice of free, rational and similar individuals. Therefore he arrives to declare that the principles of justice should be seen as categorical imperatives in the Kantian way. Indeed by categorical important Kant means these moral guidelines which are to be rationally respected and accepted from a free of charge and rational person. Opposed to these we find hypothetical imperatives which will be the ones which purpose at certain specific goals.

Concerning the key points that have to be likely from your choice take under the veil of ignorance, we have to not consider them as described principles for actions but as standard guide lines for sensible politics decisions.

It is to be noticed that some critics might emerge at this time, authors like Sen criticized the fact that exactly these principles would emerge from the contracting under the veil of ignorance: The results might be considered a different one.

The first process states the next:

"Each individual is to have an equal right to the most considerable basic liberty appropriate for a similar liberty for others. " (Rawls, 1971)

What is strictly recommended as basic liberties needs to be defined more precisely, indeed they are simply:

a) The dynamic and passive to vote; the first identifies the opportunity to choose a political actor according to your preferences (what's commonly grasped as to vote). The next one (passive right to vote) refers to the fact that we have the possibility to prospect for elections and likelihood be elected.

b) Liberty of conscience, which is actually the faculty to choose or make a decision by your own, your future life, the right path of being and your own destiny.

c) Freedom of speech and assembly, therefore the possibility expressing your own ideas and make them public even if they do not fit and are not coherent with the current political situation and its majority's ideas. The liberty of assembly indeed identifies the possibility to set up political assemblies to go over political and practical issues.

d) Flexibility to personal propriety, which is to be realized as the possibility to have the personal private propriety on your goods (although he suggests that the private propriety of means of production is definitely not to be observed as female good).

e) Liberty from arbitrary arrest, which means the fact that the public power hasn't the freedom to arbitrary (so with out a reason), arrest individuals because they might oppose or disagree with the general public electric power itself.

The second principle: Sociable and financial inequalities should be assemble so that

(a) They are to be of the greatest advantage of the least-advantaged participants of society, steady with the just savings concept (the difference basic principle).

(b) Office buildings and positions must most probably to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity

(Rawls, 1971, p. 302)

The first area of the second concept (a) holds the theory that the first goal in an option should be to maximize the least well off rather than to increase in general. (Maximin) Which means that plans which imply inequalities might only be accepted if indeed they raise the position of the poorest too. It really is well described by this graphical representation:

C:\Documents and Adjustments\Roberta Simeone\Desktop\rawls function. jpg

This graph is usually to be interpreted as if there were two individuals; presenting freedom to your imagination why don't we call them: 1 and 2.

The social power of both is usually to be assessed on the 45 degree line in the idea of interception with the L curve. A few of them are proclaimed in increasing utility order to provide a general idea, I

Already this discussion (Maximin) proves the potency of Rawls' critique to utilitarianism because it gives focus on the syndication of wealth somewhat than considering simply the sum of all agents' utilities'. This will be clear in the paragraph about utilitarianism.

The justification for this argument is due to the actual fact that the randomness of the problem where one exists is not associated with a moral entitlement. For example the financial conditions of your respective family or even the abilities one has are merely casual. That is why it is to increase first the worse off who had been unlucky in the lottery of life.


Utilitarianism was mainly born by Jeremy Bentham's (1748-1832) work. His biggest invention compared to prior thinkers was to found moral viewpoint on a rational basis. This displays the theoretical enhancements of his time, which is the medical method helped bring by enlightenment. He therefore tried to make ethics an analytical science which may be proven by logical and mathematical guidelines.

This idea is founded on the essential idea that activities should only be judged from the worthiness of its results. The main element point if we assume this way of thinking, becomes to identify precisely how we may value the effects of our actions. We could try to value various things which we generally assumed as good, such as delight, satisfaction, riches or even simple pleasure.

Not providing any value view about this technique to chose the right action, it is already possible to notice that part is specially problematic as all these things turn out to be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to evaluate. The general process is the so called electricity, relating to utilitarian philosophers it could be measured by computation and thus it we can compare between actions leading to higher and lower power outcomes. Bentham feels it is possible to possible to analyze pain and pleasure by using equations, this should be the best way to define utility based on the duration and the strength of a sense (positive or negative). Founding this process of electricity is a general assumption thought to be true by utilitarianism, it is the simple fact that any activity leads to two basic emotions, that are pleasure and its contrary: pain. View about how to do something should only be left to both of these.

In Bentham's words: "that property in any subject, whereby it will produce benefit, advantages, pleasure, good, or happiness. . . or. . . to avoid the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness" (Jeremy Bentham Introduction to the Key points of Morals and Legislation, 1789).

As we saw in this paragraph this basic knowledge of utilitarianism does not allow us to go beyond an individual, individualistic wisdom. How should indeed society's power be considered? The definition of utility says that it ought to be considered compared to the part whose interest is concerned. If we consider society as the interested party that will be society's interest? In this philosophy social utility is easy: the total of all individuals' utilities.

(Even as saw, Rawls position criticizes exactly this simpleness by which utilitarianism simplifies individuals and the overall social electricity. Which effectively is a fair debate against it).

An individualistic methodology by which each individual maximizes its utility will not appear to be appropriate for collective utility. Just how utilitarian philosophers feel that it is possible to enforce public interest is trough legislation as a tool, the law should define the principles population wants to value and the actions which maximize interpersonal utility. A planned legislation will lead to harmonize specific interest to public one by making obedience to laws more convenient than breaking it. Which means that the expected power of committing an action against the law should be less than the possible edge to commit a criminal offense. Indeed Bentham tried out to find a way to determine particularly the penal code, in this manner anyone would know the punishment applied for breaking the law which would be resulting in a lower utility than respecting it.

To give another visual representation to be set alongside the Rawlsian one we can take a look at the following graph:

C:\Documents and Adjustments\Roberta Simeone\Desktop\Utilit ut. jpg

Again we've our 1 and 2 (individuals) deciding social utility, the parallel lines have again a slope of 45 certifications - this time turned through 90 levels. The social energy is on the interception where in fact the two individual ones cross. We can note the fact that even if you have all and the other any (interception between x axis - u1 - and W1) we still stick to the same communal power: W1.

Critical points in utilitarianism

Utilitarianism was basically left without critics, already Bentham's successor John Stuart Mills (1806-1873) who was simply the next innovator in utilitarianism began to criticize different solutions and assumption utilized by Bentham. Indeed Bentham's procedure used to be focused on the theory by which the public acting professional should respond. Mills on the other palm was focusing more on the personal morality of activities. Compared to Bentham he assumes an approach which is more inside, he tries to give attention to the mindset of the agent. Here we find the first critic to utilitarianism; Mills believes power maximization assumption to be too thin to explain brokers' options.

An interesting critique is the one moved by Bernard Williams (1929-2003) it is well explained by an anecdote by Williams himself known as Jim and the Indians:

"Jim confirms himself in the central square of a small South North american town. Tangled up against the wall are twenty Indians, before several armed men in standard. A heavy man in a sweat-stained khaki shirt turns out to be the captain in control and (. . . ) points out that the Indians are a random band of inhabitants who, after recent acts of protest against the federal government, are just about to be wiped out to remind other possible protesters of the good thing about not protesting. However, since Jim is an honoured visitor from another land, the captain is pleased to offer him a guest's privilege of getting rid of one of the prisoners himself. If Jim allows, then as a special draw of the occasion the other Indians will be let off. Naturally, if Jim refuses, there will be no special event, and the captain can do what he was about to and kill all of them. (. . . ) The men are from the wall and the other villagers understand the problem and are clearly begging him to simply accept. What should he do?"

(B. Williams, 'A Critique of Utilitarianism' in Smart & Williams, 'Utilitarianism: For and Against', Cambridge University or college Press, Cambridge, 1973)

Since utilitarianism only considers the tool of the outcome of any action there is no choice. It really is much better in conditions of general electricity to kill only 1 person rather than having 19 others been killed. This might simply be better because utilitarianism considers that each one counts for just one and only one. What Williams argues differs: that it is not similar consequence if a person is killed by my immediate action or if he's killed because of my indirect patterns, which in cases like this would be an function of not taking involvement. Killing actively one individual would not maintain our personal moral integrity because indeed we would have killed a individual. This would damage our very own personal moral integrity even though it might be an improved outcome in conditions of social energy. That is the reason why this objection is known as the integrity objection.

Rawls critique

Rawls position is deeply against utilitarianism, as this school of thought is accepting to give up individual pursuits for majority's ones. The utilitarian assumption that each interest might get up for population, is criticized even if the sacrifice of someone's interest might trigger better efficiency. For Rawls it is more important to ensure justice before efficiency. It really is said to be wrong if almost all would get an advantage but the person who has to take the sacrifice is the most detrimental of, and this is unjust.

Accordingly, in a just culture we must assume equivalent citizen privileges, which again according to him are a complete right under any scenario. The sole admissible injustice would be one which would prevent a worse injustice.

The first critical point of utilitarianism he recognizes is the fact that it tends to make the average person disappear. Utilitarianism has a very narrowed view of humans only considering its electricity, to the idea that after the individual utility is calculated there is absolutely no other relevant information regarding the person. This kind of lowering leads utilitarianism to be always a school of thought which is indifferent to individuality and individuality of individuals.

Further, another critical point is the main one concerning distributive justice, utilitarianism will try to increase the social outcome all together, what it still fails to consider is the distribution of that utility. (As explained by the second graph). If we abstract and consider prosperity as utility it does not make a difference it one person has a whole lot & most others a little: the general sum of all the utilities is still maximized. Between two actions, one resulting in a utility of six for the first specific and an energy of one for the second, and another resulting in three for every single, utilitarianism would choose the first because seven is greater than six. It is because all what counts is the amount of power, although this brings about profound injustice.

Finally he says that each desire is to be calculated and in comparison to other needs although they might are different in their characteristics, what's to be recognized as a qualitative versus quantitative difference.


What Rawls criticized in utilitarianism is apparently right for standard principles of social welfare. Utilitarianism needs to be awarded with the creativity to apply rationality to moral beliefs. Although it forgets the circulation of wealth problem.

This last mentioned one appears to be the very best critique to utilitarianism. It really is undeniable that the utilitarian view - of every individual maximizing its utility as he best is convinced also implies a higher grade of freedom of preference. This choices should thou be produced in ways which is not interfering with sociable purposes. An action shouldn't only be appreciated from the electricity it brings to the sole individual but world as a whole. Because in the end even the solo individual is residing in contemporary society and thou being affected from the status quo he stays on in. Community welfare isn't just profiting the ones who immediately gain from it however the whole system's balance. Injustices will be the seed of contrasts, the People from france aristocrats living the France Revolution might trust this view.

Not only is the critique effective but also fair over a moral basis. World should not be led by individualistic principles, this assumption would mean to put cultural morality on a single layer as specific one. But societies emerged from cooperation between individuals - to attain something more. This is why why their state should try to be better than individuals particularly relating to morality.

On the other experienced it should be mentioned that utilitarianism has the great advantage of being practical and effective to apply. The usage of calculation implies an unbelievable advantage in conditions of efficiency in decision-making.

Further it is not clear why both rules of justice should automatically emerge from the original position, this is actually the critique migrated to Rawls by many, among them Amartya Sen. The theory is the fact other concepts might emerge from the choice made under the veil of ignorance.

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