[hist-analytic] Rawls, Contract, and the Theory of Social Choice

Brandon Young brandonbildung at gmail.com
Mon Aug 30 14:29:52 EDT 2010


I'm not sure. It is pretty well-accepted that Rawls was very much so in the
tradition of "social-contract theorists" from Hobbes (who is brilliant) to
Rousseau. Consequentially, Rawls imagines a State of Nature where the "game"
is not equality in general but equality of choice; that is, the "veil of

Rawls was conscientiously in this tradition of the social-contract
philosophers, and revitalized the field. His anthropological assumptions are
just different. Hobbes. like Machiavelli, assumes man as essentially not
good, Rousseau assumes the converse. Thus, the two branches of social
theory: One, a critique of the State/political/cultural/ apparatus, the
other a expansion of how the State must control the inherent Fall of Man.

The interesting thing is that one of Rawls' axioms is that the Moral organ,
like the linguistic organ, and employs a principles and parameters approach
to morality.

All of this is very interesting. I will have more to say later. I'm reading
"Law's Empire" but must cut my wandering mind in check and get down to the
business of being a good law student and keep healthy.

This is very interesting and I will have more later, perhaps.

On Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 2:20 PM, <Baynesr at comcast.net> wrote:

> Before engaging Rawls (and related self professed "social contract"
> philosophers, we need to get our "meta-bearings." What is Rawls up to,
> anyhow. Here is my take in very broad terms.
> Rawls is not, really, a social contract thinker. He intends to be but this
> is not what is most fundamental in dealing with his thoughts on, say, the
> "Nash point," Arrow's theorem, Pareto liberalism, and welfare economics,
> generally. The way I see it, Rawls has a bogey man (or bogey person, or
> bogey woman, etc). That bogey being is the idea of a "comprehensive moral
> view." I will go into all this later, but I just want to set forth in
> general terms what I see as his strongest motivating desires.
> What Rawls wants  to do, in my opinion, is first deploy social contract
> theory in order to "free" himself from "comprehensive moral views"; then,
> "reduce" the fundamentals of social contract theory to social choice theory.
> Thus, Rawls is in fact doing social choice theory not contract theory, as
> such. I will explain later WHY I don't believe this is really social
> contract theory in either of the two senses I identify (Rousseau vs. Locke).
> But, besides avoiding "comprehensive moral views" there is another
> consequence, one which he will employ to detoxify the assets of
> utilitarianism: he detaches the theory of justice a discussion of historical
> processes. (e.g. _Justice as Fairness_ Harvard, 2001, p. 54: "The principles
> of justice specify the form of background justice apart from all historical
> conditions."
> I hold in abeyance the issue of the legitimacy of this move; but I would
> point out one fact which I believe is sort of interesting. Not only does
> Rawls distance himself from utilitarianism by rejecting the comprehensive
> view, e.g., but he also distances himself from Marxism, by denying the
> pertinence of historical processes. The rejection of historical processes
> and the rejection of a "comprehensive view" AND the rejection of Marxism, as
> such -  although I think it is pretty clear Rawls, notwithstanding his
> occasional disclaimers, is anti-capitalist - are tied to the "reduction" of
> political theory to social choice theory.
> Steve Bayne

Brandon Young
(617) 816-6301
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://rbjones.com/pipermail/hist-analytic_rbjones.com/attachments/20100830/b62650d1/attachment-0002.html>

More information about the hist-analytic mailing list