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Fr. 778

April 27, 2017

Rawls is quick to point out that the original position is not an actual happening nor that it represents a first-person perspective which one can viably adopt. Instead, it serves merely as an artificial device or heuristic for arriving at a conception of justice by which to measure the state of justice in one’s own society. It just so happens that the device or heuristic is so conceived that it yields a conception of justice free of contingency, a contingency-free conception to which we gain access at the issue of the original position.

Seen from a different angle, one might make a comparison between the original position so understood and a scientific instrument designed in such a way as to detect entities independently of human perception. This instrument would nominally yield an apprehension of such entities free of human perception. At the issue of the instrument’s work, one would thus gain access to a perception-free apprehension of the entity in question.

Yet one notes that one’s apprehension of the perception-free apprehension of the entity itself passes through human perception. More simply, one must perceive the results of the instrument’s findings such that the perception resurfaces, albeit at a different level. If the parallel between the instrumenta and perception holds between the original position and contingency, there seems some reason to doubt that our access to the conception of justice resulting from the original position is not in itself mediated by the contingency inherent to the standpoint from which we apprehend it. One must wonder whether the original position’s findings do not fall prey to just that contingency of cognitive context, albeit in different fashion, which Rawls took such pains to avoid.

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