Rawl’s Argument on the Rejection of Utilitarianism
One of Rawl’s major contributions to the world of philosophy is introducing a superior option to utilitarianism. The philosopher believed that utilitarianism will fail to protect basic individual rights and freedoms to meet societal requirements. Rawl’s primary argument was that people would reject utilitarianism because the representative parties would rather not choose the philosophical approach in favour of fairness. For the philosopher, the fact that people choose justice from the original position justifies his arguments while providing ground to criticize utilitarianism. Rawls talks about several reasons behind the public decision, including strains of commitment, the condition of publicity, matters related to self-respect, and the difference between persons. The author’s modification of his claims reflects the inability to understand and alter utilitarianism. Utilitarianism cannot work because people will not commit to the original position, and the philosophy will fail to justify sacrifice for the maximization of social welfare.
Utilitarianism has some dangers that will dissuade people from continuing to commit to the philosophy. Rawls informs that if society was to affirm the principle and adapt it, people would have to sacrifice some of their basic interests and liberties. The looming compromise is justified under arguments of maximizing social welfare (Rawls 126). For instance, the public will have to sacrifice personal freedoms in favour of increased federal monitoring. Rawls argues that people are rational beings and will not enter into agreements that they know they cannot fulfil or will do so with some degree of difficulty (126). The struggle is what the philosopher describes as the strains of commitment. People only assign to conceptions of justice where there is strict compliance by all people. It is difficult for people to let go of simple pleasures and goals for the sake of benefiting others, who, to their eyes, might be undeserving of the compromise.
Utilitarianism does not provide people with opportunities to secure their self-respect, which is another reason underpinning its rejection. Respect is an essential component for social cooperation, and utilitarianism does not offer the satisfaction or sense of fulfilment necessary to instil self-worth (Rawls 155). The problem for proponents of the theory is to prove that the rights and needs of the least advantaged are more significant than people’s original position. There is also the problem that utilitarianism does not maximize utility. People who promote liberty would reject the theory due to its infringement of personal freedoms. For instance, the approach would entail the redistributive taxation of the rich in favour of the poor, which libertarians perceive as the unjust taking of holdings belonging to the affluent. Self-respect stems from people following the path they design for themselves and not from collective plans.
Rawls argues that utilitarianism cannot generate sufficient public support for widespread implementation. The philosopher quotes, “When the basic structure of society is publicly known to satisfy its principles for an extended period, those subject to these arrangements tend to develop a desire to act in accordance with these principles and to do their part in institutions which exemplify them” (Rawls 154). The understanding is that because the conception of justice cannot receive broad public acceptance, it becomes unstable. The state negates the philosopher’s ability to bring about a notable sense of justice, which in turn negates its utility. There is also the thought that utilitarianism contains some level of ignorance that allows evil to exist, such as slavery. The underlying perception is part reason why utilitarianism cannot gather support from all people. The concept of utility requires wide identification and alignment with the interests of others. Because utilitarianism cannot satisfy this principle, it is likely to be rejected.
Some of Rawl’s arguments are incorrect due to the assumption contained in the original position. According to the philosopher, one of the primary considerations people make when considering a moral principle is its ability to protect the equal worth of individual rights and liberties. The argument provides strong grounds as to why people would prefer utilitarianism as a concept of justice. Utilitarianism entails a redistribution of resources for the least advantaged, which elevates their socioeconomic status. The approach tends to make people more equal financially and socially, which is why people will prefer it in protecting equal rights and liberties. There is also the assumption that conceptions of justice must fit. History informs that human judgment can exist under a veil of ignorance and accept certain discrepancies, such as slavery. Initial conditions do not always express reasonable situations for grounded judgments, so the concept of publicity is not as influential as Rawl perceives it to be.
Rawl’s understanding of justice does not reflect a realistic take on human judgments. Foremost, justice and other moral concepts are subject to individual rational choices. Justice is equally systemic. Rawl’s rejection of utilitarianism is generalized and fails to consider the implications of individual choices and natural systems. Some households might require extra resources to grasp a rational life and to enjoy the worth of equal rights and freedoms. The need for additional materials is present even though the constitution guarantees personal liberties. The systemic gap is a big reason for people to accept utilitarianism. However, one can argue that theory was meant to handle collective societal problems instead of transforming individual decision-making. The counter-argument makes Rawl’s argument more feasible. Fair opportunity needs a comprehensive understanding of the difference principle to become effective. Nevertheless, Rawl’s theory is a good approach to ascertaining social equality in a capitalistic society.