Leading ethical philosopher Rawls’ “Theory of Justice” (1971) is an undertaking to address the concept of distributive justice through the classic philosophical model of the social contract as propounded by Kant. However, Rawls challenges pre-existing theorem and goes further in hypothesizing the justice theory under the aegis of “Justice as Fairness” (1999 (Ed) p.289). The “Justice as Fairness2 hypothesis further derives the following Rawlsian principles of justice:
1) The liberty principle. and
2) The difference principle (Rawls, 1999 (ed) p.65).
Moreover, Rawls’ theory of justice attempts to reconcile the utilitarian and deontological approach to ethics by arguing with regard to the Kantian social contract model. However, whilst Rawls acknowledges that the “Justice as Fairness” model is rooted in “Kant’s notion of autonomy”. Rawls argues that “it is a mistake, I believe to emphasize the place of generality and universality in Kant’s ethics….. it is impossible to construct a moral theory on so slender a basis, and therefore to limit the discussion of Kant’s doctrine to these notions is to reduce it to triviality” (Rawls, 1999, (ed) p.221).
“No one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance” (Rawls, 1999 (ed), p.118).
As highlighted above, Rawls’ theory of justice propounds the liberty and difference principle, which alters the classic model of the social contract by justifying social inequality within a distributive “veil of ignorance” justification. .