The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 115, Issue 11, November 2018

Johan E. Gustafsson
Pages 588-604

The Difference Principle Would Not Be Chosen behind the Veil of Ignorance

John Rawls argues that the Difference Principle (also known as the Maximin Equity Criterion) would be chosen by parties trying to advance their individual interests behind the Veil of Ignorance. Behind this veil, the parties do not know who they are and they are unable to assign or estimate probabilities to their turning out to be any particular person in society. Much discussion of Rawls’s argument concerns whether he can plausibly rule out the parties’ having access to probabilities about who they are. Nevertheless, I argue that, even if the parties lacked access to probabilities about who they are in society, they would still reject the Difference Principle. I argue that there are cases where it is still clear to the parties that it is not in any of their individual interests that the Difference Principle is adopted.