Is Justice a Basic Requirement?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Hermann, Sep 7, 2001.

  1. Hermann Registered Senior Member

    My opinion:

    Justice is a human invention allowing to live in a society.

    Judges and punishments are only needed in order to defend the society and the people inside the society.

    God - if there is any - would not be a judge.

    Hermann (
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2005
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. Captain Canada Stranger in Town Registered Senior Member

    I would suggest that the legal system represents a human invention based on a conception of justice, but that justice itself is a concept that, dependant upon society as it is, is not necessary for society to function.

    I would argue two things:

    1. Justice is a concept different from the process of law. For example, it is possible to conceive of an unbiased judge sentancing a thief to 20 years for stealing a car, and we would psssibly view the decision as unjust. There are almost endless examples we could think of where a legal decision, fully complying with the law, is viewed as unjust, suggesting a separation of standards for justice and the law.

    2. It is the process of law rather than justice which allows society to function. Of course, should all laws be unjust, this would become difficult to support. Nonetheless, a system governing human interaction need not necessarily be just. A society without law is one which is difficult (impossible?) to conceive of. A society with unjust laws could exist, but may be unpleasant.

    I would argue that justice is of itself a concept dependant upon human interaction based upon rules. This in itself infers society.

    "I was hit for no reason - this is unjust."

    This assumes certain rules governing human interaction.

    My thoughts: Justice offers a higher (basic?) standard of rules for human interaction. An ideal. But justice need not necessarily exist for society to function.

    One question I have no answer for. Does law require a conception of justice?
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    What is Justice?

    That's my paltry contribution to the topic so far: What is Justice?

    After all, when we define Justice, we define it in exemplary terms, such as Captain Canada's example, "I was hit for no reason - this is unjust."

    In the aftermath of WTO-Seattle (11/99), the news media found people weren't sympathetic to damage estimates in the low millions of dollars, and quickly inflated that number by including the injustice of "lost revenues": in other words, potential sales discouraged by the protests.

    I'm of the notion that certain groups of people should not go on strike: police officers, nurses, &c. The reason for this is best illustrated by a simple example: a friend of mine had to work on Labor Day, an American holiday where all the nine-to-fiver white-collars take the day off: Banks close, the Post Office closes; my employer--an insurance company--gave us the day off. It was unfortunate that my friend could not take the day off, but unlike the poor baristas who have to come to work to serve lattes, and the retailers who have to come to work to sell their wares to the holiday crowd, my friend needed to work because she works at a hospital. People should be able to live without their lattes for a day, imho, but the difference 'twixt Starbucks and a hospital is vital. People don't stop getting sick, hurt, or otherwise needing medical attention; the doctors and nurses have to work, but they can't do it without their support staff. In that sense, we see a person undertaking an occupation for money that involves a certain sense of commitment not present in my own job--accommodating the needs and comforts of underwriters. For a similar reason, I don't think vital personnel in the community should strike. Yet almost cyclically, over periods of several years, nurses end up threatening strikes when the HMO employers choose to not meet the financial needs of their employees. The HMO's rely on public sentiment that nurses shouldn't strike, and offer bad contracts during negotiations, knowing that the public backlash against striking nurses will be strong--they rely on public sentiment to back their assumed right to underpay their employees. When the nurses threaten to strike, very little focus is given to the contract itself, and much sentiment is devoted to whether or not the nurses should strike. I, personally consider this maneuver by HMO's unjust, but again, I'm providing examples of what is or isn't just and proper, instead of defining justice itself.
    This is pulled from, and abridged to disregard definitions irrelevant to the present discussion. These definitions seem somewhat subjective, and this subjectivity seems to bring about a sense that Montesquieu (1) referred to when he wrote our judgements are made with reference covertly to ourselves. We deem something just largely as it relates to ourselves. When we cry for justice on another's behalf, we generally are empathizing or sympathizing with the person and the conditions. We might say that sexual abuse of prisoners is unjust because we would not wish for that to happen to ourselves or to our loved ones, not because we care a great deal about the abstract individual we've never met. Consider the volatile Drumcree tradition of marching Protestants through Catholic neighborhoods and rioting; the whole purpose of the parades seemed to be to tear up the neighborhoods of people who aren't of the same religion, and for years this parade was given British government protection in the form of armed troops who restrained Catholics from defending their homes and other property. This we might say is unjust, but why? It's unfair, in accord with definition 1 above? What constitutes fair? We might say it's immoral, applying definition 2 above? What constitutes morality? In accordance with the law, applying definition 3? Well, the defending government bodies were operating according to the law. There is no sound fact or reason in such religious fights, so definition 4 is generally out.

    So we look at definitions 1 and 2 especially. In terms of fair, such equity is a matter of convention; after all, looking at Western economies, fair necessitates a poor labor class that has difficulty surviving and participating in the full benefits of society. Moral? Moral, as well, is a convention, as a host of Sciforums' religious debates reminds us: Inquisitors saw doctrinal dissention as immoral, and torture and murder as moral. Such conventional ideas are active, living ideas.

    I will agree with the assertion that Justice is a human invention allowing to live in a society (Hermann, topic post). I hold a similar regard toward morality. Thus, we must look to the purpose of society itself to figure out what, exactly, justice is.

    In the case of nurses, as given above, I think the injustice comes to the nurses in question, and also to their patients. Society, it seems, exists to protect humanity from the wilderness. We flourish when we camp in and devise a common interest to protect and pursue. As I see it, the underpaid nurses can certainly find work elsewhere, but the result being that less-skilled nurses will replace the underpaid nurses; the logic being that the less-skilled nurses are being passed over for jobs in favor of higher-skilled nurses. If the contract offer is too low, and the higher-skilled nurses go elsewhere, the lesser-skilled nurses will replace them for the lower compensation. In addition to the injustice to nurses that comes with underpaying these vital jobs, there is an injustice to the patients, many of whom are committed to this or that facility by the HMO they receive through their work. Change your health coverage? What if one cannot for lack of offered options and lack of funds to cover the increased expense of a medical industry that seeks profit before health? It is unfair according to definitions 1 and 3 above to underpay nurses in the labor market; their compensation is not equal, thus they are being paid less for doing the same work, and this isn't fair. And it further is unfair according to the idea of due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law.

    But dictionaries and examples do little to define the broader perception of Justice, and that's a place to start. I would propose, for the benefit of this bright topic, that we should find a working definition of Justice to apply before determining its necessity.

    I'll work on proposing a composite definition later; anyone have ideas?

    thanx much,

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Note 1: I have drawn the Montesquieu quote from a topic in the Religious Debate forum, where the source citation can be found:
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    Your absolutely right, Hermann. I totally agree with you. That is the Jewish POV on the issue. No heaven, no hell, you just return to G-d, in the end.
  8. Hermann Registered Senior Member

    Thanks for your contributions to this topic.

    My main point was to say, that justice is not a natural law. The evolution (survival of fittest) was only possible by many unjustly events. Therefore I stated that justice, which is differentiating between justly and unjustly actions was a human invention. The same is valid for defining good and evil, for ethics and morality. This makes me think, there is no "higher" justice or final judgment as it would be normally connected with god.

    Nevertheless we can and should try to formulate rational definitions for all that, were we have already started with, but still knowing that it is only the relative view of rational minded people. Here I would like to refer also to Melijn's thread (A Basis for a Rational and Objective Ethics).

    I agree that we need laws for the functioning of a community and I am not sure whether this needs a conception of justice or not. In my opinion the laws should mainly save the community and its people and it should not be mixed too much with morality. I cannot see e.g. why the punishment for a groggy murder should be less than for others, if the future risk is the same. Whether laws have a task for education is another open question.
  9. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Naturally justice is a human creation, most Absolutes are. Justice, no matter how flawed, is an attempt to avoid arbitrariness.
    Surely a human society needs to avoid arbitrary judgement?
  10. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Justice is a human invention. It exists no where else. Nature does not have it. For nature's purpose the law of survival suffices. It's purpose is sustaining life for the most fit. When you need justice is when those who are not strong enough to take it seek equality. Equality to live and be without threat.
  11. Javier Registered Senior Member

    Hi all,

    Let s look at the name of this subdivision of the forum:

    Ethics,Morality and Justice;is this grouping arbitrary,or due to a more general conception(around the world and in history) of the close relation that these high issues mantain?

    They are systems for ruling the human behaviour,and therefore characteristically human,and that is what makes us different from beasts:the capability to differentiate right and wrong(ethics),the liberty and self discipline to make a living according to this(morality),and to establish a set of rules to ensure,(imposable by force,if needed), that the social organization can function according with the above values,(for they seek generally the same,the social-individual good) which if they evolved,they did because they were and are the best way for our social species to improve,benefitting all of the parts that benefit the rest and allowing none to abuse the advantages of cooperation in its sole gain,which in turn would destroy the social organization(combined with our intellect,our darwinian fitness).

    And, is clear that the object of ethics is not to do what you don t want to receive(in the sense of harm),which,by the way,is the new commandment of Christ, and the core of most religions,freedom of responsibility that animals don t have in order of their less conscience;

    But we can check out that in animal s societies,behaviour that we would consider "evil"(killing for or torturing for pleasure,not defending the offspring in danger,etc)carries severe consecuences against the status of the perpetrator;we can see the evolutive development of rules that allow living socially

    So Justice,as an ideal way to organize society in act, must be related to Ethics and Morality,because these two last values(and they are absolute as an abstraction,but can be more or less achieved in practice,like the correspondent concepts,rooted in instincts,feelings and common sense, that exist in us to point to them as the correct way to act for the species success,like: fairness,equality,generosity,kindness,goodness,compasion,care,etc., )point to preserve the ravaging and exploiting of the social advantages by individuals that not provide for society in turn;

    The more these values(the three of them)work,society grows to a new stage of organization(village,tribe,kingdom,alliance,globalization),and with this,each time more people(groups of people)must be considered with right to a part of the benefits of it,just because they contribute to the general health;and what appeared to be just in the former,less organized stage,will be perceived as unjust in the new one...

    The difference between a tyrant and a good ruler is that the last governs for his people,and the first for himself.

    The one that efforts the more is entitled to more benefits.

    The solution for the apparent contradiction of these two propositions,imho,lies in the fact that we can not have one without respecting the other,i.e.,no individual or minority can pretend more than the will of all the rest togheter,which is the base of democracy(between individuals or/and between communities).

    All right,this is the way i see it...
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2001
  12. machaon Registered Senior Member

    Natural law.

    I think that, mabye, to assume that anything(to include humans) that exist in the natural world is capable of producing anything that is unnatural is to assign a definition to the word "unnatural" that escapes the logic of not seperating what we observe about the world from the fact that all things exist within the parameters of what is possible in the universe.
  13. Hermann Registered Senior Member

    There is no absolute ethics, morality or justice !!!

    Look at China today, which is still very much influenced by Confucius, who preached "Harmony" as the highest value. In harmony Chinese can manage to be to be convinced communists and to use capitalism for becoming reach. They have the now the greatest economical boom, which has ever happened in any country. Although they have no democracy and no "human rights" they are happy. They managed to get the growth of population under control, nobody has anymore to starve and they have no problems with terrorism. They try to live in harmony with their family, their working place, their government and with the world.

    I think, "aiming harmony and practicing tolerance" could be the best message to the world, which could find more consensus than any other values.

    Everyone sees the world with his own eyes - my updated weltanschauung (world outlook) is described at:
  14. tony1 Jesus is Lord Registered Senior Member

    *Originally posted by Hermann
    They have the now the greatest economical boom, which has ever happened in any country.

    Yes, 120% of nothing is still nothing, though.
    You're forgetting that they ruled most of the known world at one time.
    To get from where they were to where they are now, is the exact opposite of a boom.

    *Although they have no democracy and no "human rights" they are happy.*

    O yes, they are so happy, they are trying to leave.
    I guess China can't contain all the "happiness."

    *They managed to get the growth of population under control,*

    That's easy to do.
    They merely kill their newborn babies if they forget to abort them first.

    *nobody has anymore to starve and they have no problems with terrorism.*

    Why would they? They ARE the terrorists.

    *They try to live in harmony with their family, their working place, their government and with the world.*

    Wouldn't you if you were to be shot if you didn't?

Share This Page