Can the Maximin Principle Serve as the Basis for Morality? A Critique of John Rawls’s
- Harsanyi, John
- Economic Psychology
John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice is examined from the perspective of experimental methods in economics and complex adaptive systems simulations. This paper first discusses the justice principle selection process in Rawls’s representation of it as a hypothetical experiment. This hypothetical experiment fails to satisfy reasonable experimental controls, particularly as reflects the conception of the individual it employs. The second section of the paper discusses the differences between Rawls’s two conceptions of rational persons associated with his distinction between thin and full theories of the good. The third section uses his fuller conception of rational persons, life plans, and psychological laws in the third part of the book to offer an alternative view of the selection process understood as a complex adaptive system. The fourth section turns to a topic raised by this complex system approach, the status of normative reasoning in political-economic systems. The fifth section summarizes.