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Picture a perfect society. What does it look like? - Joseph Lacey

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A group of strangers have gathered to design a just society. To ensure none of them rig the system, they’ve been placed under a veil of ignorance. Under this veil, they’re blind to information about age, sex, profession, wealth, religion, and so on. Can they build a fair society where everyone has the resources they need? Joseph Lacey details John Rawls' classic thought experiment.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

John Rawls is a central figure in modern philosophy and his work has been a continuous reference point within and beyond this field for half a century. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy is a great starting point for a deeper dive into Rawls's work and wider significance. It has detailed entries on Rawls's work in general and on the original position more specifically.

Ronald Dworkin, a critic of Rawls who was mentioned at the end of the lesson, appeared on BBC television in 1978 to explain Rawls's key ideas to the public and how they differ from the influential libertarian political philosopher Robert Nozick. You can find this part of his interview with host Brian Magee here. For a broader discussion, three philosophers discuss Rawls's work and significance on the BBC Radio 4 program In Our Time. Meanwhile, in a video from the YouTube channel Then and Now, Rawls's idea of a property-owning democracy is fleshed out in more detail.

Recent debates about the significance of Rawls's work for the modern world have been conflicting. For example, in a popular book published in 2023 called Free and Equal, Daniel Chandler makes accessible arguments about what a fair modern society would look like based on Rawls's conception of justice. However, in a 2019 book called In the Shadow of Justice, Katrina Forrester argued that Rawls's political philosophy was a response to 20th century challenges and is not well suited to the concerns of justice that face us in the present. You can read more about these books in the LSE Review of Books and the Boston Review.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Joseph Lacey
  • Director Eoin Duffy
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Composer Salil Bhayani
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett
  • Produced by Gerta Xhelo, Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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