Feb 24, 2016

Whats Fair and Reasonable? by Jacinta N. Obinugwu

Credits - www.linkedin.com

It is important to have a fair understanding of the meaning of Justice. According to Oxford dictionary, "Justice is defined as the quality of being fair and reasonable". Justice can also be seen as a philosophical concept of rightness in ethics. Although justice is vitally important to any ethnical system, the definition of ‘justice’ is highly disputed upon amongst philosophers and political thinkers.

This article looks at the writings of Jeremy Bentham, John Rawls and Robert Nozick from the perspective of Aristotle’s question about the nature of justice. Outlining the principles of Bentham’s utilitarianism, Rawls’s justice through fairness, and Nozick’s procedural justice theory, this discussion illustrates the degree to which these three writers were concerned with distributing three very different ‘goods,’ when they sought to create justice.

Bentham sees justice as maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain for society as a whole. Bentham believed that if we maximize the pleasure in society, this gives everyone in that society the highest probability of having pleasure, even if it means sacrificing the rights of some individuals to achieve that pleasure. Within utilitarianism, equality loses its importance, as to what meaning it has in a conception of society as a single mass, rather than a group of individuals. For Bentham, we are all equally tied up in society, like bees in a hive, and what is good for the hive is good for the bees. Essentially, we have the equality of membership in a society.

Rawls sought to create the most equal possible society by designing it in a way that no one knew which position they would occupy in it. He believed that if the people designing society could not know where they fall in the grand scheme of things, they would become conservative, and carefully design the one society that most perfectly cared for its least fortunate group. Rawls sought equality of opportunity and access to benefits, allowing only for inequality that would still improve the state of the least fortunate. Inequalities that leave some group worse off would be forbidden.

Nozick saw this view as pointless. For Nozick, justice therefore meant equality of the right to contract. If people are free to bargain as they like, and this is what they do, then the results of those bargains are just. In order words, Nozick was of the view that in order to get a fair balance in a society one must possess the ability to bargain.

All men think justice to be some sort of equality, what do you think?

by Jacinta N. Obinugwu

Editor's note: This article was originally posted by the author on www.linkedin.com