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Thread: The Nature of Justice

  1. #1

    Default The Nature of Justice

    Hello all, I was just reminded of that thread about the failed justice system and I have just finished re-reading Plato's Republic and Meno (though that is not about Justice but it's close) and I started to wonder- what exactly is justice? Is it my iPads definition- Just behavior (terrible first definition) or its second one-the quality of being fair and reasonable? Or is it Polemarchus's definition of helping friends and harming enemies? Or returning debts owed? Or Thrasymachus's definition of whatever is advantageous to the strong? Or any of the other multiple definitions mentioned in the Republic?

    What do you think justice is? Why is it that you think that? How does clemency affect justice? Should it? What would be the perfect justice system?

  2. #2

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    i think it all depends on which 'justice' we're talking about.
    in legal and authoritative terms, it's a simple case of "do as i say, or else!", as per it's etymology in that sense (from norman-french rule). from there, it's also gone on to refer back to it's original origin, through a mix of self-justification and education in the classics.
    so, how the word is used, and who is using it, defines it's meaning.

    to be honest, as English speakers and given the cultural taints of the word, i think it's probably best that we do away all notion of 'justice' and, instead, work toward a 'fairness' or 'evenhandedness' in our affairs.

  3. #3
    Astra

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    Quote Originally Posted by ade View Post
    i think it's probably best that we do away all notion of 'justice' and, instead, work toward a 'fairness' or 'evenhandedness' in our affairs.
    I feel the opposite way- to my mind, justice implies meeting certain standards, while fairness implies trying to achieve certain outcomes. The former is much easier than the latter IMO and less likely to produce unintended consequences.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by IamGod View Post
    What do you think justice is? Why is it that you think that?
    As Lewis Carroll might have said, a word means precisely what I mean it to mean. As an abstract concept "justice" could never truly be defined in terms of specific things that exist in the world (unless you make a list of every action and every "just" response... but even then... what's just for one person will be unjust to another).

    As a vague abstract definition, maybe you could say something like this:

    "Justice" means responding to situations "fairly", "equally" or according to some non-subjective tariff of rewards and penalties, without considering matters irrelevant to the specific case (e.g. bias due to personal favour, vested interests, bribery, etc.).

    And the reason that I think that that's what justice means is because... well... that's what I infer that other people mean when they use that word. The only way we know what any word means is by listening to how it's used.

    Anyway, the problem is that in "real life", every event is unique so it's not that simple to treat people "equally". Two people steal a loaf of bread. You could argue that "justice" means treating them equally and giving them identical punishment -- a 20 fine. Or you could say that it would be "just" to fine them a day's wages (20 in one case, 200 in the other). Or perhaps one was stealing for "fun" whilst the other was stealing to save the life of their starving child so the first should be punished but not the latter.

    In reality, there is no such thing as "justice"... It's just an idea that humans cling on to as a way to describe the objective world in terms of their own subjective values.

  5. #5

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    I have to agree with tiny in that Justice is a subjective term. I tend to think of it in terms of the law, meeting out punishment to prevent crimes, but that's way to simplistic, and in the U. S., the punishment often does not fit the crime. I've hear of cases in Texas where someone caught with pot could get 99 years in prison, the punishment not fitting the crime, IMO.

    So what is justice? Victims of crime call out for justice, and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and that seems fair, but does it deter future crime? Does it have to, to meet the criteria of justice. My family had a very good and dear friend who was murdered by her husband. We all knew he did it, but the wheels of justice had to prove that he committed the crime. The investigation and trials took 3 years. At it's conclusion, we felt she had been avenged, and that justice was served. For us, justice was finding some resolution for being deprived of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by IamGod View Post
    Hello all, I was just reminded of that thread about the failed justice system and I have just finished re-reading Plato's Republic and Meno (though that is not about Justice but it's close) and I started to wonder- what exactly is justice? Is it my iPads definition- Just behavior (terrible first definition) or its second one-the quality of being fair and reasonable? Or is it Polemarchus's definition of helping friends and harming enemies? Or returning debts owed? Or Thrasymachus's definition of whatever is advantageous to the strong? Or any of the other multiple definitions mentioned in the Republic

    What do you think justice is? Why is it that you think that? How does clemency affect justice? Should it? What would be the perfect justice system?

    In the end Socrates settles on the definition of justice as doing what one is best suited to do. he comes across this definition after finding courage, moderation, and something else I forget. It's been a while since i read the republic.

  7. #7

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    I look as justice from all perspectives, including legal, to simply mean to make things right. I believe that everything has a price and that price, if it is just, is no more and no less than it should be. If I borrow money I pay back what is due including the appropriate interest, but it is not just for the lender to take advantage of me by tripling the interest without just cause. If I rob a bank I expect a punishment that exacts justice, no more and no less punishment than is appropriate. This means that I do not loose my life for the mere act of stealing $50, because this would not be justice.

    In the US there is an ongoing and strengthening trend where victims and other groups are demanding punishments that do not match the crime, thus they are unjust. Interestingly, such punishments are also not Constitutional.

    Just is fair, it is what should be expected and it is one of the basis behind the US Constitution.

  8. #8

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    As Gandhi said, "There is a higher court than the courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts." Now that we live in a world that has a universal concept of human rights, justice to me is the protection of these human rights, although there will always be controversy over which protections are just or not. For example, capital punishment is often debated as a conflict of human rights. Opponents say that sentencing a murderer to death is hypocritical, and therefore unjust.
    Last edited by babybluejay; 04-Nov-2012 at 08:03.

  9. #9

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    That is where balance and integrity comes into the picture. I am religious but I believe it is possible to strip religion from the picture completely and still have a highly meaningful conversation on this topic.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garzilla View Post
    That is where balance and integrity comes into the picture. I am religious but I believe it is possible to strip religion from the picture completely and still have a highly meaningful conversation on this topic.
    I concur.

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