Monday, November 15, 2010

Reduction of Justice

[Previous post in the series: "Induction of Egoism"]

The goal is to use the method of reduction to learn what things we need to know in order to induce the idea that “justice is important, it is something that we should have.” We’re not inducing the virtue of justice, as that presupposes that we already know a large amount of proper actions, and that we already have a criterion of “virtue” to compare justice with.

Suppose someone said, “the way to validate justice is to look at examples. You go to court, a murderer gets convicted, and an innocent man goes free.” Those are examples of justice, but they’re not perceptual ones. In other words, you see the event, but not the “justice,” because it is abstract. This makes “justice” a lot more abstract than the other principles we’ve already worked through. In the induction that “reason is man’s means of survival,” you could see someone produce food, so you could see production; you could introspect and note the role of abstraction and other mental processes in production. In the egoism induction, you could directly reflect on your own priorities, motivations, and values. In justice, there’s nothing directly to observe.

Someone could object and say, “the idea is you punish criminals and reward good people.” But the question we seek to answer is: “where did you get the idea of rewards and punishments from? How did you get it from reality? How do you know what it applies to? What is its scope? Etc.”

Since the goal is to show that justice is something that we should have, that it is “good,” we need some collection of values from which we can get an idea of “the good,” like we did in inducing egoism. And we’ll start with the same common-sense values that we started with in egoism: whatever gives pleasure, strength, health, wealth, enjoyment, knowledge, or employment is good; whatever gives pain, weakness, or disease, etc., is bad. Those are the underlying evaluations that allow people to make judgments on whatever views they do have, so we’ll take them for granted here.

To begin the reduction, then, let’s start with a dictionary definition of “justice”: “Administering a deserved punishment or reward.” Since the word “deserved” is so important in this definition, then let’s also look up “deserved”: “to merit or become worthy of because of one’s acts.” This is the first part of our reduction: the reduction of the concept “deserved.”

Justice is a matter of some response or action being appropriate because it was “deserved.” Well, we can ask ourselves, “is there ever a case in which we reward or punish without someone deserving it?” Yes: the case of animals. We punish and reward animals, but we don’t think that they deserve that, we don’t say that they are worthy or merit our response even though we do in fact respond with some action. Desert is something we add to punishments and rewards, and we couldn’t have the concept of justice without this concept of “deserve.”

So, what do we need to know in order to reach the concept of “deserve”? To know that a punishment or reward was “deserved,” we have to know the concepts of “reward” and “punishment.” How do we reach these? Why do they come up? The idea is that we have to act in a certain way, we give rewards and punishments, and when deciding to give rewards and punishments, we’ll say that this is “deserved” in some cases, and in some cases it is based on some other principle (not simply “undeserved”).

So, we’ve gone from “justice,” to “deserve,” and now down to “reward” and “punishment.” What do “reward” and “punishment” presuppose? A punishment is a negative conferred because of a bad or undesirable, improper action, whereas a reward is a positive conferred because of a good or desirable, proper action. To reach these two ideas, we would have had to reach the idea that some actions and some people are good, and some are bad; this means that we must reach the idea of evaluating men and their actions.

First, we need to reach the idea of evaluating people and their actions, and then a certain kind of action, based on our evaluation, would be a punishment or reward, and then something else, whatever it may be, will tell us the difference between punishment and reward, and between animals and people, such that people can “deserve” things while animals cannot.

What could we do to discover the importance of evaluating human beings—that it’s important to judge and evaluate human behavior? You couldn’t start from scratch, and then understand what a person means when he says, “it’s important to judge people.” We must then start with, “why should I judge anything at all, animate or inanimate?” This is where we reach the level of direct perception, and the end of the reduction.

[Next post: "Induction of Justice"]

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