Rawls, the Original Position, and Empathy

One of the major inspirations for the Empathy Party philosophy is the book “A Theory of Justice” by political philosopher John Rawls. The book is both the foundation of modern political liberalism and the generally accepted starting point of modern political theory. In the book, Rawls lays out one truly genius thought experiment, called the Original Position. In the Original Position, (probably hypothetical) participants are placed behind a ‘veil of ignorance’, with no knowledge of their place in society or even of many aspects of their personal circumstances and personality. ¬†From this position, they are asked to write the rules of society. What is particularly clever about the Original Position is that it forces people to engage in the fundamentally empathetic task of thinking “What would I do if I were in that position?” and thereby forces them to reject any society in which any member is faced with an impossible situation.

Below: A photograph of John Rawls.

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