A2 Rawls' Veil of Ignorance

1. Rawlsian ideal theory can’t account for correcting injustice, only whether something is unjust.

NECESSARY LINK: see page Ideal Theories Bad

This explains that Rawlsian ideal theory tells us what to do to create an ideal society from scratch, but given that we have to make actions in relation to a society that already exists, it can’t correct injustices that already exist. 

2. The veil of ignorance removes individuals from any contextual understanding of interests, rendering the theory self-defeating.

Humphreys, Rebekah. “Contractarianism on the Incoherence of the Exclusion of Non-Human Beings.” 2nd Philosophy Graduate Conference, CEU, March 29-30, 2008.

There is a real problem within Rawlsianism in contracting individuals representing anyone and not being merely egoistic. The contractors are not actual people, adjusted to society. They are imaginary, non-bodily, prospective people, and are not yet embodied. Decisions that are just, for Rawls, are those that a rational, autonomous individual would choose. The contractors in the original position are to recognize individuals as rational, autonomous agents, just like themselves. Just rules are those that the contractors themselves consider to be just. But how are those in the original position supposed to make rules on behalf of others from such an abstract position? The contractors are assumed to act in their own best interests, and assumed to be self-interested, that is, they are to choose rules of justice that any rational, autonomous agent, much like himself or herself, would choose. Seyla Benhabib argues that the contractors are “disembodied and disembedded” from actual concrete reality, and that such an abstraction ignores differences, like gender differences (Benhabib, 1992, p. 152). The problem is that the contractors are to make rules based on decisions as to what “I”, as a contracting individual, would choose were I, say, in a disadvantaged position in society, yet the “I” has no knowledge of such a position. Benhabib believes that we need a less abstract account of the self if we are to take seriously the interests of individuals. We can only make just and fair decisions from a concrete, embodied position (Benhabib, 1992, p. 170).1

She continues,                    

Contrary to Carruthers’ belief, in order for the moral contract to be a fair one it is important that the particulars of the case in question be taken into account. Not all humans have the same [different] interests and needs. The same would apply in the case of animals. For agents to act on behalf of animals they would need to have prior knowledge of themselves, and some sort of specific prior knowledge of animals. They would need to have knowledge of the species-specific interests of different animals, not just the basic interests of animals. Confining some an- imals may not actually do them any harm, while confining other animals may be detrimental to their well-being. Decisions that promote the well-being of one animal may not promote the well-being of another.

3. There can be no veil of ignorance because the ignorance Rawls talks about destroys individual identity and prevents people from making choices, which is the essential feature of morality. 

Gauthier: “Morals by Agreement” pg 257. The Archimidean Point. “Here we proceed… …attitudes, and preferences.”

Here we proceed in a manner quite different from Rawls.  For in his argument the epistemic effect of ignorance of one’s identity has an ontological significance quite incompatible with conceiving persons as actors.  Rawls is led to the Kantian view that apart from each person’s contingent self he has a real self, the moral person defined by a concern with justice and the good, and that this real self is the proper subject of all moral choice.  This real self, which alone escapes the nexus of social determination, [It] is revealed by removing all knowledge of the contingent features of individual identity.  But we deny that there is [no] such a ‘real self’.  A person’s identity is in all respects a contingent matter.  But this contingency is not morally arbitrary, for morality is and can be found only in the interaction of real persons individuated by their capacities, attitudes, and preferences.

4. Contractualism is wrong.

NECESSARY LINK: see page A2 Contractualism

And, the veil of ignorance is contractualist. Ashford 2

Ashford, Elizabeth and Mulgan, Tim, "Contractualism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2009/entries/contractualism/>.

The most influential recent contractualist is John Rawls. Rawls's contractualism differs from Scanlon's in two key ways. (1) Rawls's contract is more Kantian, as he seeks principles everyone would agree to, rather than principles no-one could reasonably reject. (This contrast is especially marked if we consider Rawls's Dewey Lectures, where his work is at its most Kantian.) (2) Rawls's contract is political — it aims to set the general social framework for a liberal society, rather than determining moral principles. As a result, Rawls places the parties to his agreement behind a veil of ignorance, where they do not know many key facts about their own identity. This is to ensure that the resulting principles of justice embody Rawls's commitment to liberal neutrality. For Rawls, we ought to follow the principles that it would be rational for everyone to choose, if they had to choose those principles without knowing anything about themselves or their circumstances. Because each person knows that they could end up being anyone, each must have concern for all. In essence, Rawls uses self-interest behind a veil of ignorance to represent a commitment to justice, construed as fairness to all.