The reviewer compares the story to John Rawls influential book, A Theory of Justice
I wonder how many readers remember John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, that scholarly paean to egalitarianism and institutionalized envy, from 1971. How would one dramatize, in visual and auditory concretes, its high-blown, insidious principles?That's not a bad comparison,
I first read Vonnegut's short story at least 40 years ago. The story is a simple and brutal cautionary tale of the principle of equality taken too literally and carried to absurd extremes. That is the simple part. The brutal part is because those who accept those extremes as proper moral behavior have the power to force compliance and the effects of that are devastating. While I admit I only half understood it at the time, the images of athletes bound by weights and the best human minds interrupted in their thinking by discordant noises acted as an inoculation against later temptations to let a blind application of a principle override my intelligence.
John Rawls' conceptions of justice and fairness are rooted in the Platonic notion that there is a moral order imposed on the Universe by cosmic or supernatural forces and that human morality is measured by how closely it conforms to this ideal. This is convenient for the philosopher because it allow him to "discover" these laws using thought experiments based on purely imaginary scenarios.
Perhaps this explains why one of Robert Heinlein has one of his characters describing philosophers as scientists with no thumbs.
The simple fact is that the moral nature of human beings arises from the evolutionary and intellectual history of our species. Understanding these dual influence requires more than lying about discussing made up principles within a framework of made up scenarios. To understand the evolutionary side requires some knowledge of biology and evolution. To understand the historical side requires a knowledge of history.
It takes what we used to call in Engineering, "skull sweat", a phenomenon much lacking in modern philosophy and apologetics.
H/T to Western Rifle Shooters Association