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Kant

What is Justice?

37 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I know, I know, another question that has literally been asked a million times.

Still, I was thinking about this in a speech class and I thought about asking this here because, as far as I can tell, it isn't as "controversial" as other topics. 

What exactly is "Justice"? Some think it's the simple repayment of a debt. If its simply "repaying a debt", then what becomes right or wrong? Is anything only "right" if it's in the negative sense that you owe something and you "rightly" pay that debt?

Others think it's a form of systematic revenge, backed by jails, courts, and law enforcement. If it's a form of revenge though, then is justice just a cat and mouse game of who gets the last laugh? Is it merely a means to punish those who we deem to have done "wrong"? 

Another idea of justice is that it is the alignment of one's actions with a template of what a "good" person is. If this is the case, who decides this template of righteousness? Who is the one who determines whether or not actions are righteous in themselves? Is this template even beneficial for us, or does it harm us by forcing us to fit into an impossible mold? 

Perhaps justice is a utilitarian system of measuring one's actions with the amount of good/harm it produces? If that's the case, who decides "good" and "harm" and in what respect? For example, if I shot my neighbors noisy dog, did I do more good because I removed a nuisance to the neighborhood or did I do more harm because I caused great emotional trauma? 

These are just a few ideas that I recalled from the top of my head, but I want to know what you guys think— what is "right" and what is "wrong"? What is "just" and what is "unjust"? 

Thoughts? 
 

Edited by Kant

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To some it is their PR stunt and power play pretending to be something higher and nobler.

To others it is the fulfillment of an agreement.

To others, something else.

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10 hours ago, Kant said:

What exactly is "Justice"? Some think it's the simple repayment of a debt. If its simply "repaying a debt", then what becomes right or wrong? Is anything only "right" if it's in the negative sense that you owe something and you "rightly" pay that debt?

Others think it's a form of systematic revenge, backed by jails, courts, and law enforcement. If it's a form of revenge though, then is justice just a cat and mouse game of who gets the last laugh? Is it merely a means to punish those who we deem to have done "wrong"? 

That's two meanings of justice, but both have their origins within law. The former goes to the earliest principles of law - as redress and reparation. The latter is an essentially socio-political response ergo "paying one's debt to society" etc.  The revenge aspects serve the emotive, the punitive aspects can be justified as setting an example.

11 hours ago, Kant said:

Another idea of justice is that it is the alignment of one's actions with a template of what a "good" person is. If this is the case, who decides this template of righteousness? Who is the one who determines whether or not actions are righteous in themselves? Is this template even beneficial for us, or does it harm us by forcing us to fit into an impossible mold? 

That's simply morality. Moralizers will always seek to establish "good" and "bad", and have it enshrined into culture and law. To equate morality with justice is farcical, unless you think a caliphate under sharia law is a good idea. No problems there with getting "justice" and righteousness swiftly determined.

11 hours ago, Kant said:

Perhaps justice is a utilitarian system of measuring one's actions with the amount of good/harm it produces? If that's the case, who decides "good" and "harm" and in what respect? For example, if I shot my neighbors noisy dog, did I do more good because I removed a nuisance to the neighborhood or did I do more harm because I caused great emotional trauma? 

Seems like an ideology, with a moral dilemma what-if which doesn't address the scope of your proposed system. e.g. Totalitarianism could (and would) adopt that system and claim that suppression of law and suspension of constitutions is more just than what it's replacing.

11 hours ago, Kant said:

what is "right" and what is "wrong"? What is "just" and what is "unjust"? 

Sort out the difference between morality and justice first. Keyword for justice: fairness.

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, rickster said:

That's two meanings of justice, but both have their origins within law. The former goes to the earliest principles of law - as redress and reparation. The latter is an essentially socio-political response ergo "paying one's debt to society" etc.  The revenge aspects serve the emotive, the punitive aspects can be justified as setting an example.

That's simply morality. Moralizers will always seek to establish "good" and "bad", and have it enshrined into culture and law. To equate morality with justice is farcical, unless you think a caliphate under sharia law is a good idea. No problems there with getting "justice" and righteousness swiftly determined.

Seems like an ideology, with a moral dilemma what-if which doesn't address the scope of your proposed system. e.g. Totalitarianism could (and would) adopt that system and claim that suppression of law and suspension of constitutions is more just than what it's replacing.

Sort out the difference between morality and justice first. Keyword for justice: fairness.

Okay, fair enough. What is "fair" then? Should everyone get the same amount of cupcakes, or should everyone work hard and whatever cupcakes they get is what they get? 

(Btw, I'm not restricting you to those two options— I'm just throwing out suggestions of what "fair" might be. I want to know what you think about justice and "fairness".) 

Edited by Kant

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13 hours ago, Kant said:

Okay, fair enough. What is "fair" then? Should everyone get the same amount of cupcakes, or should everyone work hard and whatever cupcakes they get is what they get? 

(Btw, I'm not restricting you to those two options— I'm just throwing out suggestions of what "fair" might be. I want to know what you think about justice and "fairness".) 

As two opposing political ideologies and I'm not going anywhere near either. At the end of the day they're both tied to distribution of wealth and little else...as per the vague "get". Similarly, justice and fairness within law is of another sub-category.

The concepts of justice and fairness are entangled. Applied broadly to society, the concept of justice is insistence that people must receive from the state their due. With no implication that the state should act in a morally good fashion.

The concept of fairness isn't immediately discernible but is distinct from justice inasmuch as examples like privilege create and reinforce unfairness. It's important to note that "justice as fairness" discounts the factor of luck.

The concepts of justice and fairness ideas make justice inherently more important because of its links with moral obligation.

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Posted (edited)

It is an interesting question regarding your OP. Believe it or not I have held this mantra at my lips for a long time and you raise the question of what Justice means. Philosophically the thread has found the right place as to the questions regarding it.

Quote

The notion of justice as a virtue began in reference to a trait of individuals, and to some extent remains so, even if today we often conceive the justice of individuals as having some (grounding) reference to social justice. But from the start, the focus on justice as a virtue faced pressures to diffuse, in two different ways. Justice as a Virtue -LeBar, Mark and Slote, Michael, "Justice as a Virtue", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/justice-virtue/>.

I would have attended to the first part that the suggestion would be raised as to the "trait of an individual,"  and then lost as to the many thoughts each individual could have explain as being. . But I always sought something deeper in the individual.....as acting in accordance to some moral code. So the "symbol of Justice,"  goes way back in our historical ventures so as to see that the scales can be used to weight anything against something else? More to then,  that Justice can be logically deduced by our esteem lawyers to have us conclude what? Yes, a very interesting question.

Quote

In Kant we see the completion of the distinction between justice as a virtue and justice as a norm to which a virtue may or may not correspond. While Kant has a theory (or “doctrine”) of virtue, he distinguishes that theory precisely against a counterpoised theory of justice. The two are complementary elements in the “metaphysics of morals.” Moreover, the doctrine of justice itself has two parts, roughly corresponding to the distinction present since Plato’s work, between the role of justice in the individual and the role of justice in the state. Kant calls these “private right” and “public right,” respectively. But right in either case is not how Kant at least conceives of virtue; instead, it is a “condition” that can obtain between the moral agents comprising a moral or legal community, in virtue of their principles of choice in acting (Kant 1797). Little remains here of the notion of justice as a virtue of individuals as it began with the ancient Greeks. LeBar, Mark and Slote, Michael, "Justice as a Virtue", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/justice-virtue/>.

So what is judgement then,  as,  having but concluded? If there is but little justice left in the individual,  then how is such a private judgement made? I must add, that the understanding here then,  is that,"the doctrine of justice itself has two parts," and that,  Justice,  once understood as virtue in the individual, does become an understanding of "Justice in the state."

Quote

René Descartes

For the Rationalist philosopher René Descartes, virtue consists in the correct reasoning that should guide our actions. Men should seek the sovereign good that Descartes, following Zeno, identifies with virtue, as this produces a solid blessedness or pleasure. For Epicurus the sovereign good was pleasure, and Descartes says that in fact this is not in contradiction with Zeno's teaching, because virtue produces a spiritual pleasure, that is better than bodily pleasure. Regarding Aristotle's opinion that happiness depends on the goods of fortune, Descartes does not deny that these goods contribute to happiness, but remarks that they are in great proportion outside one's own control, whereas one's mind is under one's complete control. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue#Ren.C3.A9_Descartes

This understanding of virtue,  goes toward the foundation of first principles.

Quote

Descartes describes the concept of a first principle in the following excerpt from the preface to the Principles of Philosophy (1644):

"I should have desired, in the first place, to explain in it what philosophy is, by commencing with the most common matters, as, for example, that the word philosophy signifies the study of wisdom, and that by wisdom is to be understood not merely prudence in the management of affairs, but a perfect knowledge of all that man can know, as well for the conduct of his life as for the preservation of his health and the discovery of all the arts, and that knowledge to subserve these ends must necessarily be deduced from first causes; so that in order to study the acquisition of it (which is properly called [284] philosophizing), we must commence with the investigation of those first causes which are called Principles. Now these principles must possess two conditions: in the first place, they must be so clear and evident that the human mind, when it attentively considers them, cannot doubt of their truth; in the second place, the knowledge of other things must be so dependent on them as that though the principles themselves may indeed be known apart from what depends on them, the latter cannot nevertheless be known apart from the former. It will accordingly be necessary thereafter to endeavor so to deduce from those principles the knowledge of the things that depend on them, as that there may be nothing in the whole series of deductions which is not perfectly manifest."VOL I, Principles, Preface to the French edition. Author’s letter to the translator of the book which may here serve as a preface, p. 181

 

Edited by PlatoHagel

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There is also the concept of Restorative Justice, which I find preferable to older views.  I prefer it because it treats the state not as the victim, but acts as a moderate between the offender and the victim.

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11 hours ago, sommers71 said:

There is also the concept of Restorative Justice, which I find preferable to older views.  I prefer it because it treats the state not as the victim, but acts as a moderate between the offender and the victim.

Thanks for that great link.

Restorative justice is arguably the concept on which much of law and justice has been built upon. The shift towards the state as victim is tied to the establishment as the "state". Policing e.g. after all only serves the establishment, and in claiming that it's not there to dispense justice it actually in practice dispenses unfairness.

I'd argue that restorative justice is more fair since it seeks to bypass the criminal justice system as we know it.

21 hours ago, PlatoHagel said:

Philosophically the thread has found the right place as to the questions regarding it.

Absolutely. As quaint as it sounds, we can't really come to grips with justice unless we acknowledge it as a virtuous and rational pursuit of a virtuous and rational goal. Personal virtue of course standing in stark contrast to personal and/or public self-righteousness.

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1 hour ago, rickster said:

Thanks for that great link.

Restorative justice is arguably the concept on which much of law and justice has been built upon. The shift towards the state as victim is tied to the establishment as the "state". Policing e.g. after all only serves the establishment, and in claiming that it's not there to dispense justice it actually in practice dispenses unfairness.

I'd argue that restorative justice is more fair since it seeks to bypass the criminal justice system as we know it.

Absolutely. As quaint as it sounds, we can't really come to grips with justice unless we acknowledge it as a virtuous and rational pursuit of a virtuous and rational goal. Personal virtue of course standing in stark contrast to personal and/or public self-righteousness.

Would you mind defining "virtue"? As far as I know, virtue means something along to lines of, "a quality or characteristic of a person that is deemed to be inherently good in itself (e.g. courage, honesty, generosity, prudence, etc.)". Is this the context you are meaning? 

Also, could you expound upon the "stark contrast" you mentioned? I think I know where you're going, but I want to double-check. :3 

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Just now, Kant said:

Would you mind defining "virtue"? As far as I know, virtue means something along to lines of, "a quality or characteristic of a person that is deemed to be inherently good in itself (e.g. courage, honesty, generosity, prudence, etc.)". Is this the context you are meaning?

Yeah that's a good working definition...behavior related to high moral / ethical standards etc. I'm in agreement with @PlatoHagel in terms of a need to examine justice within some philosophical framework as opposed to sub-group definitions and framework. He's gone to Cartesian First Principles and it's worthwhile grounding as I see it.

9 minutes ago, Kant said:

Also, could you expound upon the "stark contrast" you mentioned? I think I know where you're going, but I want to double-check. :3 

Gladly. The rigorous self-examination required by pursuit of virtue contrasts with the essential sloppiness of outwardly-projected morality and all it seeks to simplistically make right and wrong. 

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On 4/13/2017 at 10:07 PM, rickster said:

Yeah that's a good working definition...behavior related to high moral / ethical standards etc. I'm in agreement with @PlatoHagel in terms of a need to examine justice within some philosophical framework as opposed to sub-group definitions and framework. He's gone to Cartesian First Principles and it's worthwhile grounding as I see it.

Gladly. The rigorous self-examination required by pursuit of virtue contrasts with the essential sloppiness of outwardly-projected morality and all it seeks to simplistically make right and wrong. 

Apologies for the delayed response; I was tied up with college for a few days.

It's interesting that you make a distinction between true and false justices. So are you saying that choosing between right and wrong shouldn't always be a simplistic "yes or no" or "black or white" prescription that some people (by "some people" I'm assuming you'd mean the outward-projectors of morality) think it should be? 

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1 hour ago, Kant said:

It's interesting that you make a distinction between true and false justices. So are you saying that choosing between right and wrong shouldn't always be a simplistic "yes or no" or "black or white" prescription that some people (by "some people" I'm assuming you'd mean the outward-projectors of morality) think it should be? 

That's exactly what I'm saying. Morality is concerned with prescriptive and proscriptive rights and wrongs, but ethics (born of philosophy) for example sees the possibility of more than one right answer.

Pertaining to justice and fairness, we're forced to examine the values of a moral justice and an ethical justice..

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Justice is a compromise between vengeance and forgiveness.

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On 11/04/2017 at 6:12 PM, Kant said:

These are just a few ideas that I recalled from the top of my head, but I want to know what you guys think— what is "right" and what is "wrong"? What is "just" and what is "unjust"? 

Thoughts? 

I'm not sure what you are asking of us. Do you want me to tell you how I use those terms? The answer depends on the context and on who I am talking to - just as with most other words that refer to concepts rather than facts. Or do you want me to suggest what someone else might mean when they use those words? Again, that really depends on the context in which you encounter them. Or should I describe what I think would be useful meanings for the words? Or what?

 

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Justice in its retributive form is oxymoronic to me. Taking eyes for eyes isn't justice. It's basically one step removed from pest control. Taking away someone's car or license for vehicular homicide isn't justice. It's self preservation  

Justice is when there is no conflict or if there is, it is resolved on mutually agreeable terms. 

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"Justice" is when someone receives both the "good" and "bad" that they deserve

"Mercy" is when someone does *not* receive the "bad" they deserve.

"Fair" is when everyone receives exactly the same thing (whether it is "good" for all, or "bad" for all).

Examples:

Fairness:  equal misery for all (e.g., the projects in Detroit and Chicago, Venezuela today). 

Justice and Mercy:  God is the Judge of All the Earth.  Some choose to receive Mercy; the rest choose to receive Justice.

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Justice is the correct reaction to an action? 

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15 hours ago, SkyBright said:

Justice is the correct reaction to an action? 

Too vague. Though I see how people see that justice has something to do with "people getting what they deserve." But for some reason I find that to be a self centered definition. It implies that you are a hero for punishing villains etc. I don't find that to be virtuous at all. Dealing out proper and proportional punishment or restitution should be an expectation for a properly functioning legal system. Justice to me isn't when villains get their comeuppance but when there aren't any villains left. 

Edited by SirJamesIII

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4 hours ago, SirJamesIII said:

Too vague. Though I see how people see that justice has something to do with "people getting what they deserve." But for some reason I find that to be a self centered definition. It implies that you are a hero for punishing villains etc. I don't find that to be virtuous at all. Dealing out proper and proportional punishment or restitution should be an expectation for a properly functioning legal system. Justice to me isn't when villains get their comeuppance but when there aren't any villains left. 

Lady Justice isn't vague; she's blind.

 

 
 
...... added to this post 6 minutes later:
 

....because justice is impersonal/impartial administration of the law. 

But not all agree with this of course. Some think true justice is achieved by consideration of circumstance. But that's not justice ... that's mercy; unless... we say a truly just system allows mercy to operate. 

 

Then, mercy is just a component of justice. Mercy does not exist without justice. Justice does not exist without laws. 

You would do away with law, not outlaws, to do away with justice. And one must have laws to have justice. Whereas in your argument, you must do away with outlaws to have justice. Seems backwards to me. 

Edited by SkyBright

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12 hours ago, SkyBright said:

Lady Justice isn't vague; she's blind.

 

 
 
...... added to this post 6 minutes later:
 

....because justice is impersonal/impartial administration of the law. 

But not all agree with this of course. Some think true justice is achieved by consideration of circumstance. But that's not justice ... that's mercy; unless... we say a truly just system allows mercy to operate. 

 

Then, mercy is just a component of justice. Mercy does not exist without justice. Justice does not exist without laws. 

You would do away with law, not outlaws, to do away with justice. And one must have laws to have justice. Whereas in your argument, you must do away with outlaws to have justice. Seems backwards to me. 

If justice is impartial administration of the law, what's a just law? Fair assessment of the "race" someone belongs to under a racist rule is, under your perspective, just. The second paragraph is a non-sequitur.

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Just another relative, non-instantiated concept that most people get indoctrinated to believe in. The universe doesn't know about justice, in the same way it ignores what good or evil are. In short, fantasies made by monkeys with overdeveloped neocortexes.

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38 minutes ago, Genotype said:

Just another relative, non-instantiated concept that most people get indoctrinated to believe in. The universe doesn't know about justice, in the same way it ignores what good or evil are. In short, fantasies made by monkeys with overdeveloped neocortexes.

So long as those other monkeys believe it exists and act upon it, then it exists. Do them wrong, they will attack you. Thus it exists in the sense that it is a social organisation mechanism. The monkey troops that stick to it cohere and perform better than other monkey troops and are able to displace them.

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I suspect that the reason you dont know what justice is about is that it isnt really well defined word. You see it means many things depending on context and situation. Sort of like the word strong means different things depending on to who it applies in what situation and where at what time. In other words its an abstract word, that can be very flexible in its very meaning. For example people can be strong in character or strong in intellect or strong under stress or strong in lifting weight or strong in arm wrestling. So only way you will ever get the true meaning of justice is if you explore each example of justice and each instance alone. Which should further illustrate the the core and essencial meaning of this word. Its the use of the word that brings it meaning. So justice is dependend on what people commonly use this word for. If you make a new meaning of justice, but no one will agree upon such meaning your word would be useless as the concept would not useful. Then we may ask then how is it that some application of the word of justice were accepted as common description of justice. So here we must explore the possiblity that justice is a real concept not abstract, but something that has essencial core meaning. However it maybe heavily dependend on many different aspects such as the way the word is used in a group of people. Hence thods post.

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21 hours ago, SkyBright said:

Lady Justice isn't vague; she's blind.

 

 
 
...... added to this post 6 minutes later:
 

....because justice is impersonal/impartial administration of the law. 

But not all agree with this of course. Some think true justice is achieved by consideration of circumstance. But that's not justice ... that's mercy; unless... we say a truly just system allows mercy to operate. 

 

Then, mercy is just a component of justice. Mercy does not exist without justice. Justice does not exist without laws. 

You would do away with law, not outlaws, to do away with justice. And one must have laws to have justice. Whereas in your argument, you must do away with outlaws to have justice. Seems backwards to me. 

Well swerving out of the way to miss a deer hitting your car is a "correct reaction to an action." That's what I meant by vague. Obviously there is a criminal element to it. 

Though I hope you don't think I'm implying that we legalize outlawed behavior and voila no outlaws. 

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12 hours ago, slade19 said:

If justice is impartial administration of the law, what's a just law? Fair assessment of the "race" someone belongs to under a racist rule is, under your perspective, just. The second paragraph is a non-sequitur.

 Was thinking more along the lines of alignment with the law or being brought into agreement with the law, either to condemnation or justification. But sure, I guess it would be justice to assess accurately that someone is a race measured by nature (biological law). look at Rachel Dolezal, who calls herself "transracial."

She says that her race is not predetermined by her biology. she undertakes efforts to change her appearance. She's under judgment from a biological law already set outside man's purview (as are we all); a law  or predetermined "rule" that is different from a man-made law. We all are subject to it. 

Rachel might argue that it was unjust that she was born white thus she determines to make herself black and make herself "align" with a different law, the one she thinks is higher, which is her cognitive ability to override nature through the power of her own will and belief 

so we have competing or differing laws, and therefore differing  justices. these are all expressions of the "form" or "ideal" justice.

 
 
...... added to this post 12 minutes later:
 
3 hours ago, SirJamesIII said:

Well swerving out of the way to miss a deer hitting your car is a "correct reaction to an action." That's what I meant by vague. Obviously there is a criminal element to it. 

Though I hope you don't think I'm implying that we legalize outlawed behavior and voila no outlaws. 

Yes my post was half-baked (indicated by the question mark).

No. I didn't think that. You said though we only had justice when there are no villains left. how would that happen? by unvillainizing everything which means villainizing nothing. That equates to having no law or recognizing none. 

But then, not recognizing law, doesn't mean you've actually done away with it, does it?

I also was thinking in conceptual terms of law and Justice, not criminal only. Higher than that, what is variously called the sacred or holy or separate Platonic realm of ideas. 

So it isn't just reaction-action; more like alignment or symmetry. "All's right with the universe". Karma/cosmic justice. Like the 2nd level material triangle is a triangle and not a square, or something. 

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