Part I History of Ethics
Life of Socrates
Part II Concepts and Problems
Normative Ethics and Applied Ethics
Part III Applied Ethics
Field of Applied Ethics
In the 1970s, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice revived an approach to ethics that sought to yield substantive, normative action guides. Following the 'social contract' tradition in political philosophy, Rawls suggested a strategy for formulating key principles for personal and social duties:
Imagine a hypothetical original position where individuals, through a veil of ignorance, have no knowledge of themselves or their place in a potential society. These individuals do have, however, a wide knowledge of the general facts of psychology, economics, politics, and sociology.
Rawls supposed that in this position, these 'contractors,' as rationally self-interested, would adopt a maximim strategy whereby they would opt for the less risky egalitarian, deontological principles of justice and moral fairness. Writes the commentator Robert Paul Wolf "...moral conclusions can be reached, without abandoning the prudential standpoint and positing a moral outlook, merely by pursuing one's prudential reasoning under certain procedural bargaining and knowledge constraints" (Understanding Rawls p. 63). In fact, for Rawls, placing rationally self-interested individuals behind a veil of ignorance provides a tool for justifying our liberal democracy and the Moral Point of View.