Theory of Justice by John Rawls (1921 – 2002)

John Rawls’ theory of justice says that the premise of a society is a set of tacit agreed-upon principles. There are 2 principles under the theory of justice.

Principles of Theory of Justice by John Rawls

Principles of Theory of Justice by John Rawls

The principle of equal liberty stresses that it protects people from infringement of our rights and provide us equal rights so that we are able to be a person in the society. The first part of the second principle, the difference principle says that we are morally obligated to improve the worst off unless it is going to harm everyone. Principle of fair equality of opportunity refers to the idea of every mankind deserves to get equal opportunity regardless of their strong or weak abilities. John viewed that the ‘accidents’ that brings inequalities should be minimise.

Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN)  Retrieved from

Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN)
Retrieved from

Malaysia’s government institution, Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN) provides loan for every undergraduate student to further study. Compare to students who are from a well-off family and students who got good results, those who got average results and from poor family have higher chances to get the loan. Students who got excellent results can get scholarship while PTPTN loan is provided for others who get average high results as a reward and help. It is important that students who born in a poor family be given the same education opportunities to succeed as those well-off family kids.

In order to achieve the equal liberty in the society, society has to be thought of as social contract, to use some of the society’s wealth to ensure that the less abilities get equal opportunities and welfare as the high abilities. Every member of the society should agree to the social contract in order to live peacefully. However, to agree with the social contract, people should practice the veil of ignorance and to be in the original position. Veil of ignorance is people should ignore the differences which can divide the people into different group. Although Malaysia has three difference races, but applicant should stand at the original position whereby they are Malaysian without considering their races or religion. We, as a whole should all agree that the chances of getting the loan are based on their family financial situation and the least opportunity for them to get scholarships with poor or average results. The reflective equilibrium allows us to put ourselves in others’ shoes and agree to the social contract.

In a nutshell, we are ethically responsible to improve the worst off and set up to lessen the inequalities caused by unlucky ‘accidents’.


Utilitarianism by Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart Mills

Utilitarianism believes that the rightness or wrongness of a thing or action is determined by its usefulness. The right thing to do in any situation, if it produce the best overall outcome for all those who will be affected by the action. It is a consequential theory that we need to look at harm/benefit to ourselves and other people in the world. We have chose to discuss Utilitarianism by citing a movie, In Time by Andrew Niccol. (2011)

Utilitarianism stated that an action that brings greatest goodness for the greatest number of people in the overall situation is ethical. Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism says that the action that brings greatest good over bad for the ones that are affected in each different situation is ethical. There are no absolute rules. However Mills argues that rules that yield greatest good for all concerned should be establish and follow by the people regardless any situation. In In Time (Andrew Niccol, 2011), Will Salas from the poor society, Dayton and Sylvia, the daughter of the time bank owner of rich society, New Greenwich decided to team up to rob her father’s time banks after seeing the constant rising of prices of things in the poor town. The act of Will and Sylvia in the movie to rob the bank and give to the poor is ethical as they have increase the happiness of majority people who are still alive and suffer poorness in Dayton.

According to Utilitarianism, the majority can only override the minority if the minority do something to harm them. The minority will be considered if they are harmed by the majority. In the movie In Time (Andrew Niccol, 2011), the minority, those who owns century of time currency constantly increase the living cost and do not care about the death of the poor. Therefore, it is ethical for Will and Rachel to overturn the rich by robbing the bank to get the money for the poor. 

Happiness means the presence of pleasure and absence of pain while people are motivated by pleasure and pain. Utilitarian believes that rational beings prefer intellectual pleasure rather than sensual pleasure. The pleasure of the majority people in the movie In Time (Andrew Niccol, 2011) is that they have chance to live. However, they experience the pain whereby they have to see their family and friends pass away one by one. The pleasure and pain that they experienced motivate them to work and gain the time to live.

Teleological argues that the end justify the means. Therefore, an action is counted as ethical as long as it resulted in increasing in overall usefulness and happiness for the majority affected.

Categorical Imperative by Immanuel Kant

Deontological ethics is a non-consequential theory that is concerned with moral obligations, duties and rights. Ethical are made based on a set of permanently defined principles or maxims that are accepted as guides in different situations. The consequences do not justify the means as it is duty bound. Immanuel Kant viewed that a moral rule or principle can only be described as a rule if they can be applied universally under relevantly similar conditions. We should always treat others as a means. Kant’s Categorical Imperative says that rational beings have to follow ethics unconditionally without personal motive involved. There are 2 formulations of Kant’s Categorical Imperative to determine whether certain cause of action is a rule to be applied universally to all rational beings: Universability test and Humanity test. We have chosen to apply Categorical Imperative through societal perspective in a film, The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004).

The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004) is a story about a small isolated village built deep in the interior of Walker Wildlife Preserve to keep up the illusions of the village being a rural and rustic place.

– A part of the story when Edward’s daughter, Ivy have to go out to ‘town’ to get medicine to heal her love one. –

The village was started by Edward Walker with a group who had lost their loved ones to violence in the town. People who live in the village are naïve and kind-hearted with the fear of mysterious creatures outbound the woods. The creatures are merely suits created by the elders of the village in order to prevent their posterity from going to the modern town that claimed to be a dangerous place. However, the young ones have never known what is going on in the modern town.

First Formulation – Universability Test

Steps 1: I create lies to protect my prosperity to face and confront the ugly side of the world.

Steps 2 : If all of the village elders create lies to protect their prosperity to face and confront the ugly side of the world, they will never learn how to overcome fear, the world will never improves.

Steps 3: The action is not fair to the prosterity. The elders are being dishonest and had deprived the rights of the others to choose what kind of life they want to live.

Steps 4: There are contradiction and irrationality with this situation.

Steps 5: The maxim is UNETHICAL.

Second Formulation – Humanity Test

The elders who live in the Covington village treat their younger generations as means to an end. The way in which they have created the lies and cover up of the real world outside are not respecting the autonomy and rights of the young ones. This action is UNETHICAL.

As a conclusion, Kant’s Categorical Imperative is an unworldly theory that can be apply only in certain situations in the society nowadays as there are still universal ethics such as do not steal that should be obeyed.

Theory of Golden Mean by Aristotle

Virtuous mean lies between the extremes of excess and deficiency.

Virtuous mean lies between the extremes of excess and deficiency.

Aristotle believes that every human being has rational thinking and different desire. Moral virtue refers to the ability of human being controlling these desires in a rational way. It is a desire-regulating character traits which are at a mean between the problems of excessive or deficiency. Aristotle’s theory of the golden mean is the balance between cowardice and recklessness. We have to exercise phronesis to determine the mean to make rational choices and decisions depend on personal fact and situations.

The worst floods in decades hit Malaysia from the end of 2014 until the starting of 2015. Around 11 areas were affected in Malaysia (AsiaOne Online, 2014). The good news was the flood however, sees the return of kind citizens who sponsor and donate to the victims of the disaster. We have chose to apply the Golden Mean theory in the societal perspective in the case study.

To donate is said to be a good action when people among us need our help, but to donate in an excessive way brings trouble to them in contrarily. As for example, a citizen donated a lorry of eggs to the disaster area but the relief centre has no enough spaces to accommodate the donations. Besides, ‘second hand items’ that were unnecessary needs to the victims such as half used hand cream were also found in the donated goods (Sin Chew Daily, 2015).

There were also citizens who had acted deficiency during the flood in our country. Some might not have been noticed about the news while some noticed but think that they were not able to help. The worse part of the news was some profiteers such as boat owners in Pahang seize the flood as an opportunity to earn money (The Star Online, 2014). The act of ignoring what is happening around and the need of help of the victims even that of our own country or making profits from a disaster is deficiency.

The mean that can help to resolve the ethical dilemmas in the case study is to research and concern about victims from each affected areas to know what are the essentials they need. According to Ryonn Leong from Kelantan, serious shortage of food and drinks and has forces some victims to break into houses to steal (The Malay Mail Online, 2014). By donating essential items such as food, drinks or daily use products in a sufficient amount can be a mean of the extremes.

As a result, it is clear that not every problems can be solved in the application of Golden Mean. The action and decision that are made shows the whole character of the person.