[FOUNTAIN]Right kind of ignorance isn’t so badHarvard University Professor John Rawls, who died in 2002, went by a nickname, the “one-theme philosopher.” His lifetime pursuit was justice. His 1971 landmark book, “A Theory of Justice,” is considered to have revived the normative science of justice, not only in philosophy but also in cultural and social science.
According to Professor Hwang Kyung-sik of Seoul University, who translated the book in Korean, Professor Rawls’ theory has become the starting point for most contemporary scholars with normative interests in social and political philosophy. These scholars are called “post-Rawlsian.”
Professor Rawls said justice was laid according to the principles agreed upon by members of the society, not transcendentally given. The members of society must choose the principles of justice in the so-called “veil of ignorance,” meaning being ignorant of our racial, social and economic position within that society while acknowledging the general, social situation.
The veil of ignorance is an apparatus that prevents citizens from pursuing their own interests when making a decision for society as a whole. Through a social agreement, the citizens can act on the principles of justice in society’s best interests.
When used properly, the veil of ignorance could offer a solution to many social conflicts. Take the example of a labor strike. The workers and management try to exploit every possible advantage to secure their goals. But if they are wearing the veil of ignorance, the situation is different: ignorance of their own strength and of the weakness of the other would prompt both sides to minimize losses instead.
If people weren’t aware of their social and economic position within society, they would follow reasonable self-interest and ultimately make good choices to minimize the damage to everyone, said Professor Rawls.
Koreans are worried that their society is going through an unprecedented split. Public opinions is divided on every issue from the identity of the state to the relocation of the capital to the fight over history. Some even distort stark facts for their convenience. Unwilling to compromise and listen to others, some are confined in the “wall of fools.” Koreans are in need of a veil of ignorance large enough to cover the entire society.
The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.