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original position


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The position defined for the consideration of justice in Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971). In Rawls's contractarian theory, a social structure is just only if it could have been contracted into by hypothetical rational agents who have ‘stripped away’ particular allegiances and interests, but retain basic human needs and dependencies. The idea dramatizes the impartiality that is implicit in the idea of justice, since in the original position nobody can indulge in special pleading or bias on behalf of one group (the idea is like that of effecting a just distribution of the cake by having one party cut it, and the other party pick which piece they wish). Rawls himself called the conception that of justice-as-fairness. See also difference principle, veil of ignorance.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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