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John Rawls and the case for equality

John Rawls is widely considered as one of, if not the, most influential Political Philosophy thinkers of the 20th century.

In his main text," A Theory of Justice", Rawls conducts a thought experiment. In it people are asked to stand behind "a veil of ignorance" a theoretical device. In this position, they would have no information about their standing within society, such their gender, religious beliefs, socio-economic position etc. Deprived of this information ,individuals have to decide what kind of society they want and the levels of equality or inequality within it.

This is what we'll discuss

Learning materials:

Full lecture:
2nd half of this lecture:


Short video:

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  • Di

    One of my favourite TED talks. Might be relevant to the discussion tonight.

    September 3, 2013

    • James

      It's an interesting video, and i believe the point he's making is rather an obvious one. I find it hard to believe that the Labour party (in particular) in this country hasn't made this argument.

      1 · September 8, 2013

    • Di

      Did anyone attend the philosophy festival? What an amazing day! I can't even think of the event I liked the best- It's between the War for Children's minds and Prof Raymond Tallis talk- Has Physics killed Philosophy? The mental toughness talk was also great! Shame about Dr Terri Murray not being able to give her talk although I think I have a little crush on her or might just be the wine talking! Amazing overall. Still reeling with excitement!

      1 · September 9, 2013

  • Di

    Sorry I'm a bit late in reviewing this- It's been a very busy week for me. I knew this one would be interesting but was pleasantly surprised at just how exciting it was. As per always James came very prepared- lots of interesting scenarios, lots of difference of opinions but as always all very informed opinions. Thanks James for asking the difficult questions people are sometimes afraid to ask and answer. The 2 pounds contribution is simply not an adequate measure of the satisfaction I derived at this meet up.

    September 7, 2013

  • Philip

    Hi James and co, really sorry I missed this one. I was out of the country and August was manic. Sounds like it went well. I look forward to the next one.



    September 7, 2013

  • Naveed

    1 · August 28, 2013

    • James

      Interesting article. It's a very difficult situation. Would military intervention by the west improve matters? I'm doubtful that it would. What to do...

      August 28, 2013

    • Lily

      Western interventions in and around the Middle East have time and time again proven not to help people but instead have achieved exactly the reverse by killing hundreds of civilians (whole villages and even a wedding party) with so-called intelligence-led 'surgical' missile strikes (read Wikileaks) and plunging these unstable volatile countries into further deadly chaos (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya). Somehow I don't think that is a good solution.

      September 4, 2013

  • terence f.

    An instructive and challenging evening well chaired - thanks James

    1 · September 3, 2013

  • James

    We're upstairs again at the front

    September 3, 2013

  • Lucy

    Sorry, I too will have to apologise but hope to attend the next one.

    September 3, 2013

  • Michael

    I apologise. I am sadly going to have to skip this one. I hope you fill the place!

    September 2, 2013

  • David L.

    Hi James,
    I managed to get to your first meeting a few months ago, but live in Essex and don't get to London very often.
    But my partner Teresa and I will be in London on Tuesday 3 (celebrating my 75th birthday) and would especially like to come to your meeting. I've had his book A Theory of Justice since it was first published, and Teresa also has been doing some background reading.
    -- Regards, David

    1 · August 31, 2013

    • James

      Hi David - yes I remember you from the first meeting! Glad you can make it - I'll open up a couple of places on the meetup so you can come along with your partner. Happy birthday for Tuesday!

      1 · September 1, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Apologies, unable to attend. I have changed my RSVP.

    September 1, 2013

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