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What was Karl Popper's notion of the open society?

Beginning with a criticism of Plato (c. 428-c. 348 b.c.e.) and Karl Marx (1818-1883), Popper argued that Plato's philosopher-kings represented an unattainable ideal of human wisdom and that Marx was mistaken in believing that human history has a moral dimension. Popper reasoned that rulers are always fallible human beings. Furthermore, Popper rejected "historicism," or the view that history is determined by group actions, and "holism," or the view that only groups are causal agents in society. He did not think that the social sciences had evidence for either the existence of impersonal forces in history or the view that anything other than individuals could make things happen.

Popper did not think it was possible for rulers to predict the consequences of their actions and policies. His grounds for this were the philosophical impossibility of anyone being able to predict the future. In an open society, policies should therefore be undertaken as hypotheses that are open to being proved false. Because rulers were capable of fooling themselves and others about the success of their policies, it should be left up to the people to evaluate whether a program was successful. And if it were assessed unsuccessful, then another program should be instigated, subject to the same corrections. Popper believed that if societies were not "open" in this way, then totalitarianism and repression of individual liberties would ensue.

Who was John Rawls?

John Rawls (1921-2002) was educated at Princeton University and taught at Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, and Harvard University. He is credited with almost single-handedly reviving Anglo-American political philosophy in his A Theory of Justice (1971). Relying on both Kantian morality and the basic principles of consent by those governed from social contract theory, Rawls outlined a model for a just society. His additional publications include Political Liberalism (1993), The Law of Peoples (1999), Collected Papers (2000), and Essays in the History of Philosophy (2001).

What was John Rawls' theory of justice?

Rawls (1921-2002) began by positing justice as the cardinal virtue of society. All societies value the concept of justice in a primary sense, although they have different

Did John Rawls believe in complete equality?

No, Rawls (1921-2002) was not an advocate of total "distributive justice" or the ideal that all members of society should receive equal amounts of everything. But he applied the standard of fairness to inequalities through his "difference principle:" inequalities must "be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society."

"conceptions of justice." Rawls' conception of justice was that it can be understood as fairness. On that model he proposed that a society would be just if its fundamental institutions were just, which would entail equal access to official positions. As a way of determining how fundamental institutions could be just, Rawls proposed a thought experiment that posited an "original position."

In the original position, the framers of just institutions would do their work behind a "veil of ignorance." This veil of ignorance would prevent them from knowing their own positions or interests in the society whose institutions they were framing. Rawls wrote:

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' thought experiment guarantees a hypothetical condition of disinterestedness on the part of original framers. This posits them as Kantian rational agents, who because they are autonomous or self-ruling, can and should make choices about what is most important in their lives. That they do not know their personal interests but nonetheless frame institutions that will affect everyone's personal interests is fair in the same way as having one child cut a piece of cake and the second child choose the piece she wants. The premise that individuals with interests in society consent to the basic institutions echoes the necessity for the consent of those governed in social contract theory.

Social contract theory is also based on the premise that government must justify itself as beneficial to those governed. Rawls' original position promises a test of even greater benefits than allowed by original social contract theorists, such as John Locke (1632-1704), who assumed that only property owners would be represented in government. Rawls' model permits us to ask whether anyone in society who could be represented behind the veil of ignorance would choose a given state of state of affairs. If not, then that state of affairs is not just or fair.

 
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