15: On the General Welfare



Key Terms

Social Contract
Veil of Ignorance
Principles of Justice

  • Read and analyze descriptions of philosophical thought
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the pursuit of a just society through different approaches
  • Demonstrate an ability to discuss and reflect upon the application of the course material to various aspects of life.
  • Evaluate the personal and social responsibilities of living in a diverse world.

I. Modern Liberty

  • Desire to balance the needs of the individual with those of the state
  • Modern thinkers sought to avoid extremes of anarchy and fascism

II. Rousseau

  • A. Rousseau in Context
    • Corruption of the goodness of man from God’s original intent
    • The end of equality encourages ambition and vice
    • Wrote The Social Contract 1762

  • B. Rousseau on the Social Contract
    • We agree to act a certain way
    • We agree consequences should take place if we fail
    • Rules and consequences are fair
    • Rules prevent us from behaving unreasonably
    • The Social Contract grants us the freedom to act, but restricts our actions so that we do not interfere with others’ freedoms
    • This is such a radical notion that Rousseau is censored and becomes a wanted man

III. Marx

  • A. A Secular Approach
    • Create a socialist (classless) society
    • Brought about by citizens, not leaders
    • Equal sharing of resources and responsibilities
    • State control of society’s needs
    • Society’s control of the state

  • B. Enacting Socialism
    • Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    • A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    • Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    • Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    • National bank
    • National communication and transportation
    • Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state
    • Equal obligation of all to work
    • Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; equable distribution of the populace over the country
    • Free education for all children in public schools

  • C. Confusing Socialism and Communism
    • Socialism is an economic system, not a political system
    • Socialism is liberal, insofar as it desires everyone to contribute (e.g. taxes)
    • But this does not produce a system of government
    • In reality, those who want more power take control— enter: Communism

IV. Rawls

  • A. Rawls in Context
    • Gap in Social Contract theory until Rawls provoked by Hume’s critique
    • Rawls: Most important value of society is justice
      • A Theory of Justice 1971
    • Rawls agreed with Hume that Hobbes' state of nature is a historical fiction
    • However he argued it is still a useful tool

  • B. Justice and Fairness
    • Most important value is justice
    • Justice is tied to fairness
    • Image of Lady Justice
    • We must work together to further interests
    • To work together we need rules which must be fair and equally applied to all

  • C. The Veil of Ignorance
    • You could be anyone in society. 
    • What liberties should you have?

  • D. The Principles of Justice
    • The Liberty Principle, also called the Principle of Equal Liberty
      • Each person gets the maximum amount of basic liberties
      • Consistent with each person getting the same amount
      • Equal liberties
    • Fair and Equal Opportunity Principle, also called the Difference Principle
      • Economic and social inequalities
      • All jobs should be open to all people dependent upon their qualifications
      • This doesn’t mean everyone makes the same amount of money
      • If you choose to work hard and become qualified to be a doctor, you get a better salary
      • This is beneficial to society because qualified people do more difficult jobs that benefit society

Logic Week 15: On Being Hasty