Analyzing the link between Philosophy and Justice

Philosophy and Justice

Social Philosophies

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A Theory of Justice by John Rawls

Quite a number of books and articles were published by John Rawls, a philosopher that held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University. He is, however, mainly famous for his book ‘a Theory of Justice’ where he attempts to define social justice. The work has tremendously impacted contemporary political views.

Rawls was discontented with the traditional philosophical claims regarding what actually makes a social institution just and regarding what justifies social or political policies and actions. The utilitarian claim maintains that societies ought to follow the greatest good for the greatest number. This claim has several issues, such that it appears to be coherent with the belief of the domination of majorities over the minorities. The intuitionist claim maintains that human beings feel what is actually right or wrong through some natural moral sense. This is actually also challenging since it basically explains justice by stating that individuals “know it when they see it,” and it does not address the several conflicting human feelings. Rawls tries to develop a logical explanation of justice via the social contract approach. According to this particular approach, the society is somehow an agreement amidst all those within the society. If a society was actually an agreement, Rawls enquires about the type of arrangement that all would agree to. He mentions that the agreement is a totally theoretical one: he does not claim that individuals had existed outside the social state or had come up with agreements to develop a certain kind of society. Rawls starts his work with the image of justice as fairness. He recognizes the primary structure of the society as the basic subject of justice and recognizes justice as the very first virtue of social bodies (Mazzeno, 2010).

Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill

Utilitarianism is actually one of the most famous and powerful moral theories. Similar to other types of consequentialism, its main idea is that whether human actions are morally right or wrong, entirely relies on their impacts. Particularly, the only impacts of actions, which are significant, are the good and poor outcomes they produce. A major point in this particular article is concerned with the differentiation between personal actions and types of actions. Act utilitarian concentrate on the impacts of individual actions (like John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln) whereas rule utilitarians concentrate on the impacts of kinds of actions (like stealing or killing). According to utilitarians, the aim of morality is to actually make life better by increasing the quantity of good things (like anguish and discontent). They decline moral systems or codes, which comprise of taboos or orders, founded on traditions, customs, or even commands provided by leaders or supernatural beings. Utilitarians instead, believe that what makes a morality justifiable/true is actually its positive contribution to mankind (Nathanson).

Contrast the Two Social Philosophies

Rawls initiates his own position by way of contrast with utilitarianism. According to utilitarians, the best social outcome is basically the one that has the greatest total happiness over unhappiness, across all people, and actions, institutions, or policies must aim to generate this outcome. In accordance to Rawls, an individual acts quite properly at least when other individuals are not being affected, to attain his own greatest interest, to improve his rational ends. Rawls’ first opposition to utilitarianism is that it creates an illegitimate deduction from this belief of personal choice to a “principle for society.” The utilitarian claims that, similar to the way it is logical for someone to reveal various losses in his life, if this is actually essential to obtain greater countervailing growth in his life, it is also logical for the society to reveal losses in one person’s life, if that is essential to obtain greater countervailing growth in the lives of others. This utilitarian deduction is declined by Rawls since its correlation between society and individuals incorrectly conflates everybody into one, illustrating that it does not seriously regard the distinctness and plurality of people (Mack, 2001).

How Justice Is Understood In Each Theory By Analyzing A Contemporary Example Of Injustice

Rawls’ premise of justice actually applied to a similar situation.

A company sells television sets, which do not actually function and rips individuals of their money since individuals presume that the television sets function when they purchase them. Can this be considered unfair? I expect that Rawls shall in this case have the same opinion as Mill. As I initially mentioned, the property rights of an individual necessitate that the property is transferred, given an agreement and no one actually agreed to buy a broken television set.

Utilitarians would classify this particular situation as injustice; a company sells television sets, which do not function and rips individuals off their money since they presume that the television sets function when they purchase them. Can this be considered as breach of an individual’s rights? Mill could argue, yes, since the property rights of an individual necessitate that property is transferred, given a contract and no one actually agreed to buy a wrecked television set. Purchasing a television set means that it functions, unless it is openly made clear that the television set is actually not functioning (Gray, 2011).


Gray, J. (2011, April 26). Three Theories of Justice. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from Ethical Realism:

Mack, E. (2001, July 1). Blind Injustice: John Rawls and “A Theory of Justice.” Retrieved March 10, 2016, from The Atlas Society:

Mazzeno, L. W. (Ed.). (2010). A Theory of Justice – Summary” Critical Survey of Literature for Students. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from

Nathanson, S. (n.d.). Act and Rule Utilitarianism. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

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