Freedom is one of the universal human values, and this component of life is an indispensable condition for a democratic and legal society. Modern governments of most countries support the ideas of freedom and justice, while the essential principles of these concepts are approved in state laws and documents. Nevertheless, many authors and philosophers understood the doctrine of equality differently and interpreted the political necessity to safeguard freedom in various ways. One of the prominent and significant persons in this area was John Rawls. He determined that the existence of the declared principles on which the fundamental structure of equality is based, as well as the institutions that monitor their observance, is the critical prerequisite for social justice and freedom.
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Justice as Honesty
According to Rawls (2009), the principles of justice are the result of a free agreement, i.e., these are the rules that individuals will consider as the initial position of equality. The author imagines the situation when people gathered and agreed on defining principles, rights and duties; he notes that no one knows his or her place in the society, a class position, or social status (Rawls, 2009). An essential provision of this theory is that the principles of justice are chosen in practice almost blindly. Equality is taken in the initial situation that is honest.
While comparing Rawls’ attitude to freedom with the opinion of an English philosopher Mill, it can be observed that their approaches are similar since the second author also provides for freedom to act together with other individuals as one of the criteria for equality (Mill, 1869). The author emphasizes that the difference in the opinions of individuals is not evil, and the unity of views is undesirable (Mill, 1869). Both authors agree that Justice is the measure of equality and at the same time – inequality. People should be equal in the manifestation of social values. However, parity will also be fair if it gives advantages to everyone.
Key Subjects of Justice
According to Rawls (2009), the leading subject of justice is the basic structure of society. Among the fundamental social institutions, Rawls (2009) mentions the constitution and the central economic and social arrangements. Their examples, in particular, are the protection of freedom of thought and freedom of conscience, a free market, private property, etc. The author considers the central problem in the realization of justice to be the choice of a social system (Rawls, 2009). It should be organized in such a way so that the final distribution is fair, regardless of how society develops. It is necessary to place social and economic processes in the framework of relevant political and legal institutions to achieve it.
As Carnoy (2014) notes, the state’s attitude towards the issues of law and justice is determined by the type of social organization. It means that the concept of equality will be relevant if all citizens support certain ideas, even despite a different approach to particular nuances.
Similar thoughts are reflected in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: Peterson (2017) claims that the ancient philosopher wanted to demonstrate a different approach to the perception of the picture of the world, where even a public opinion was not correct. Thus, a competently structured system of political norms is an inalienable attribute of an equal society where everyone has an opportunity to voice personal opinions and is not limited in the ability to express a particular position.
Political Participation in the Moral Aspects of the Principles of Justice
The moral content of Rawls’ justice principles is related to the task of counteracting selfish motives (Rawls, 2009). The state and the governing bodies should not let people’s harm and suffering and also exclude possible causes for the destructive and aggressive behavior of those whose interests have turned to be disadvantaged (Rawls, 2009). Justice as a moral principle has the goal of setting a limit to the arbitrariness of a person who has power and wealth.
Also, one of the aspects of a legal and free society is the attitude towards future generations. Rawls (2009) notes that people of the following ages do not have the right to vote and are not capable of influencing the current situation. Nevertheless, their well-being and existence fundamentally depend on the circumstances in a specific state and the type of arrangement. Similar ideas are also considered by Mill (1869) who determines the responsibility of politics to people of a particular social group. Therefore, the moral aspect of justice is also inseparably linked to the peculiarity of the state system and the government’s ability to provide the population with the necessary rights and freedoms.
Thus, one of the vital prerequisites for social justice and freedom is the existence of the declared principles on which the fundamental structure of equality is based. All these rules should be determined by the government so that the people of a particular country feel secure and free. The positions of some philosophers are similar regarding the determination of justice concepts. The ideas of equality are connected with moral ideals that are inherent in society.
Carnoy, M. (2014). The state and political theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mill, J. S. (1869). On liberty (4th ed.). London, UK: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.
Peterson, V. V. (2017). Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: Literacy and “the good.” Review of Communication, 17(4), 273-287.
Rawls, J. (2009). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.