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Life as Art

Rawls’ Political Constructivism 2

Seeking Justice in the Virtuality of Process

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The parties to the original position engage in mutual reflective equilibrium.

Reflective equilibrium is the method of practical thought utilized by the parties as they take into consideration the broad social circumstances and reasonable conceptions of the good of human beings over time.

The principles of justice result as a coherent best fit via a process of reflective equilibrium in which the independent political principles of a just liberal society are incorporated into the multiple conceptions of the good of a pluralistic society.

Staying with the Problem

Thus, the principles of justice are based on reasonable and impartial thought that is non-foundational; not sourced in any particular conception of the good, but instead based purely on practical public reason exercised in relation to ordering and arrangement of the liberal political state.

The parties stay with the problem of the ordering and arrangement of the liberal political state.

Reflective equilibrium is a process that is not only reiterative, it is also one that stays with the problem of conceiving justice. It repudiates any dialectic that would grasp at static and final solutions.

Virtual Parties to the Original Position

Who are these hypothetical parties John Rawls creates in his thought experiment?

They are not actual people, because actual people know who they are and what circumstances they find themselves in, and have deep convictions and beliefs.

On the other hand, the parties are real insofar as they are installed with all of the knowledge of human condition, all of the possibilities one might reasonably consider to be important to human life; a diverse plurality imbued with continuous and eternal change.

One might say, the parties to the original position are virtual.

Creative Thought

In reflective equilibrium, the parties engage in a creative thought process that involves imagining all conceptions of the good, all ways of life and all perspectives in relation to matters important to human beings.

The parties are virtual, in a Deleuzian sense, insofar as they occupy a moment of pure difference.

Practical debate over ideas related to justice is a never-ending process in which the new returns eternally. New information, new perspectives, new ideas continually feed into the process.

At the limit, difference-in-itself, the only possible meta-perspective, becomes; is the force that propels the process forward. Duration is incorporated into every moment of reflective equilibrium.

To Be Human is Process

In a sense, Rawls has created a vision that enables us to get a glimpse of the reality of who we are as human beings.

As actualizations of the virtual, we are born into specific social and economic conditions and have a specific conception of the good.

But our virtuality, vis a vis justice, is expressed in terms of all possible social conditions and conceptions of the good.

Rawls’ vision forces us to think pure difference in the context of the problem of justice, from multiple perspectives, and via multiple ways of connecting.

Minoritarian Justice

Rawls’ vision is an open vision of a creative process in which the product, the principles of justice, are the new.

It is a pragmatic dialectic that at its heart takes a nomadic, minoritarian approach to the problem of justice; one in which we are forced to imagine the continuum of all possible perspectives on justice but are assigned to none; it is a dialectic that is molecular and multiple, not molar and unified, in quality.

The original position sets up a virtual connectivity in which the parties, real in duration, engage in a political process of becoming vis a vis justice.

Viewed from this perspective, Rawls constructivist approach to political theory dovetails with Deleuze’s philosophy of difference

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!


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Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Becoming: A Life of Pure Difference (Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of the New) Copyright © 2021 by Tomas Byrne. Learn more here.



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Tomas Byrne

Tomas Byrne


Jagged Tracks Music, Process Philosophy, Progressive Ethics, Transformative Political Theory, Informed Thrillers, XLawyer