If You Want To Fix Society, Imagine Life As A Fetus

If You Want To Fix Society, Imagine Life As A Fetus

John Rawls' Original Position is one of the most valuable thought experiments in political philosophy, it's simple, yet effective, and that's the beauty of it.


I remember sitting in my Critical Thinking class back when I was a freshman in college and absorbing every detail that I learned. That class was amazing to me because it opened my eyes to ethics, epistemology, and expanded my horizons on political thought as well. I don't remember much details about who all we read about and what books we covered, but I remember John Rawls.

John Rawls was a political philosopher in the 20th century who designed a thought experiment to conclusively determine what policy to draft and what kinds of laws would be fair and just. He published this idea in 1971 in his book "A Theory of Justice." The premise of the experiment was this: imagine that you are an unborn fetus, but you know everything you do now, except what class you will be born into, what race you will be, what gender or sex you may be, etc. Your identity is hidden from you, essentially. You then must imagine what conditions in society would be the fairest because you do not know what you will be born into, and you would want to ensure that you would be born into a good life. This was called the "Original Position."

The logic behind this is that without knowledge of one's placement in society, they would have an objective position to examine legislation, policy, and morality. Everyone is a "citizen," not a female citizen, or a black citizen, but simply a citizen. Everyone is on equal ground in the experiment and has no potential identity ties to bolster, and because everyone is essentially in one group, consensus and good policy can spring forth from the thought experiment.

Take this situation, for example, "What conditions would be just in society to ensure that marginalized citizens have an equal opportunity to citizens who are better off?" You might come to the conclusion of providing government services to the marginalized groups to ensure that they are protected, or you may think that more investment should be made into the human capital of all citizens so that everyone has a firm basis and equal investment opportunity. Both of these positions are valid, and they are logical and constructive because we are looking at the issue from a reflexive position, stepping back from our person and analyzing as a metaphysical outsider.

Not only does the original position allow for civil dialogue and constructive discourse, but it may also generate empathy for others as one can imagine how they would feel in another place. It also provides a common baseline to establish a society from because the original position almost always guarantees civil liberties, equal rights, and democracy as constants in the ideal society.

However, the original position is not without its problems. It does not take into account different objective ways of thinking about solutions. Take the situation I mentioned above. Disagreement can be found in it because some may say that government policies may intrude upon the rights of citizens outside the marginalized group, while others may purport that because the interest and need of the marginalized groups are greater, the dominant groups can afford to be intruded upon.

This is mainly an economic issue, too. Some may prefer more collective control to solve problems while others look for more market solutions or any other method of control. These ideas are not tied to one's ethnic, sexual, or social identity and may still be incorporated into the original position logically. Although the original position is designed for everyone to arrive at similar conclusions, it may not always be the case on every issue.

However, the benefits of the original position outweigh the deficits of it. No society is perfect, and we may have our disagreements about how to solve problems, but the original position can give us insight into an objective viewpoint of society and give us all a common baseline to development societal norms and policy from. Also, because of our ignorance of societal position, we may be more sympathetic and open to other ideas that may be presented. The original position increases mutual understanding and cooperation and is a wondrous thought experiment to partake in. It is beautifully simple, and it is an important step in the democratic journey that we should bring attention to again. John Rawls' work was dynamic and completely changed the face of political thought in his time, and his ideas will stand the test of time because of their objectivity and simplicity.

Popular Right Now

I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

Cover Image Credit: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/free-college-new-york-state.jpg?quality=85

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

Related Content

Facebook Comments