The Veil of Ignorance Discussion (Discussion 11)

The Veil of Ignorance Discussion (Discussion 11)


The purpose of this discussion is for you to think critically about ethical and , such as ‘what is fairness?’ and ‘what is justice?’ and why you think the way that you do and for you to argue for them. It is easy to say what you think, but it is hard to back it up in a debate. This topic is remarkably useful in making decisions in American political matters.

The Case:

Imagine that you are not you. I know this is a bit strange, but I am not asking you to imagine that you are some king or queen or a billionaire, but rather to imagine that you know nothing about yourself.  You don’t know any, what I will call, non-moral factors about yourself. You don’t know whether you are a man or woman, male or female, your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation. You only know that you are a person.

To help this, that you are in a conscious, intelligent state prior to your birth, but without any knowledge about the circumstances into which you will be born into. You don’t know what your parents will be like, how the hospitals will function, how the schools will perform, how the police or government will function or anything else. Your future is covered by a veil of ignorance

Since you know none of these things, what sort of society would you feel safe to enter? Given the odds (for the US), it is far more likely for you to be born to a single mother in the rougher parts of Detroit than it is for you to, say, be born to a professor in Washington. Again, it is ridiculously more likely for you to be born in a place (in the US) with inadequate schooling, expensive or under-staffed hospitals, and very few non-minimum wage jobs than it is for you to be born in the nicer suburbs of Seattle.


1. For your initial post, you need to:

1. Think carefully about the above facts and thought-experiment and answer the following: Would you be willing to make the gamble and be born into the US as it sits today? If not, what needs to be changed? What feature of the US society would need to be altered to make you willing to take the risk? If you are willing to take the gamble with the US as it sits today, what feature makes you willing to take the risk? (Fair warning: rags-to-riches tales are very easily defeated). Both of these have many different answers and you will likely come up with several very quickly, so go with the ones which you think are the most important.

2. Say why you think that. As always with these cases, you should not say merely that this is how you feel, but rather explain why you have that feeling. 

3. Say how you think another student may reply to your stance.

2. Reply to 2 other students in this class who have opposing views to you or take on the role as the devil’s advocate and object to them. In this , try to show that their feature is not the best or one of the best features.

To Succeed:

1. Make sure you are clear about your stance, that you do not devolve into name-calling and uncivil behavior.

2. Debate and replies to replies are encouraged as this is practice for real-world debates.

3. Make sure that you have all of the above points in your posts.