An inter­est­ing cri­tique en pas­sant of Rawls the­o­ries of equal­i­ty and social jus­tice (via Lawrence Solum’s “Legal Theory”: weblog) in a UK jour­nal. For the full quote, see “more”. I can’t help recall­ing Kurt Von­negut Jr’sfictional demon­stra­tion of this point. In his won­der­ful short sto­ry “Har­ri­son Bergeron”—copyright but “stolen”: all over the net—the Hand­i­cap­per Gen­er­al, Diana Moon Glam­pers, impos­es a ter­ri­ble pun­ish­ment for the unequal dis­tri­b­u­tion of beau­ty and grace.

” For myself, I think that one great mis­take of con­tem­po­rary aca­d­e­m­ic philoso­phers, start­ing with Rawls him­self, is the claim that our nat­ur­al endow­ments are ‘arbi­trary from a moral point of view’ and should not be allowed to have effects in the social world ” or, bet­ter, the effects they have should nev­er be philo­soph­i­cal­ly rat­i­fied. As Rawls wrote, we have to ‘nul­li­fy the acci­dents of nat­ur­al endow­ment.’ This puts phi­los­o­phy rad­i­cal­ly at odds with ordi­nary moral­i­ty. Some­times, of course, that is a use­ful con­flict, but in this par­tic­u­lar encounter, phi­los­o­phy does not fare well. Our nat­ur­al endow­ments make us what we are, and what we are nec­es­sar­i­ly has con­se­quences in the social world, and some, at least, of these con­se­quences must be legit­i­mate. John Rawls deserved the hon­ours he won by writ­ing A The­o­ry of Jus­tice, even if his intel­li­gence was an acci­den­tal effect of the nat­ur­al lot­tery. Beau­ti­ful men and women may not deserve the sex­u­al and mar­riage offers that they get (we have dif­fer­ent, but not entire­ly dif­fer­ent, ideas about intel­li­gence and beau­ty); still, they can­not be oblig­ed to share their wealth or, as Phillipe Van Par­i­js has sug­gest­ed, to com­pen­sate the losers in love. This last is one of Ander­son ‘s most telling exam­ples, and she goes on to point out that those of us who are not beau­ti­ful have nev­er organ­ised to demand such com­pen­sa­tion. There is some­thing to learn even from polit­i­cal strug­gles that nev­er hap­pened! ”

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