"Justice" Q&A: Just decisions require objectively-weighed values

January 14, 2008 by  

Leonid wrote:

Paul: The Nazi does an injustice to himself when he condemns a virtuous person,”

Exactly this part of your theory I’m struggling to understand. Nazi acts according to his code of values. It can be wrong, but as long as he holds this code he wouldn’t consider his actions as injustice neither to himself, nor to his victims.

Let’s start with this, upon which I assume we both agree: if one’s code of ‘ethics’ is that of the Nazis, then one is committed neither to the facts of reality nor to rationality. The ‘ethical’ code of the Nazis is irrational, false and evil. A Nazi makes erroneous measurements of value, whether or not he does so intentionally or knowingly.

Consequently, even if it could be said that a Nazi had never traded something of greater value to him for something of lesser value to him, that would not imply he had always made just decisions because it would not imply that his values were objectively weighed. If he does not weigh his values rationally, he cannot know what is of objectively higher value to him. Consequently, any just conduct on his part is, at best, a fortuitous accident. That “he wouldn’t consider his actions as injustice neither to himself, nor to his victims” (as you say) is irrelevant.

You have defined justice as “That which is a net value to ones own life is the good. That which deprives one of value and thereby threatens ones own survival and happiness (i.e., that which is a disvalue), is evil.” But, strictly speaking this is not definition of justice, this is definition of good and evil…True,the concept of justice can be derived from these concepts, but it isn’t identical to them.

You are not quoting the section in which I define justice. I defined it as follows: “…justice is the choosing of a greater value over a lesser one, and – when presented with no alternative but to choose between evils – the choosing of a lesser disvalue over a greater one.” My definition of justice concerns objective, objectively weighed values.

And what if one deprives others of value and threatens their survival and happiness? Wouldn’t you define that as injustice as well?

Another person’s survival and happiness, per se, is irrelevant to the issue of the justness or unjustness of my action. Consider this: if, by means of the sheriff’s office, I have a deadbeat deprived of his property in order to satisfy a debt that a court has found owed to me, then I have acted justly because my decision was one by which I ensured that I did not give money to the debtor without getting it back, plus the interest he had agreed to pay, plus the costs of obtaining my money from the deadbeat. If, as a result of the enforcement, he does not survive or is unhappy, that is nonetheless irrelevant to whether or not my decision/action was just.

Since moral values are objective one can decide whether his or anybody else actions are moral or not.

Sometimes you will have the information required to do so, but usually you will not. Tell me: should I add chicken to my salad today? Should I use Caesar salad dressing? There are objectively just answers to these questions, but you do not know them.

The balance of your post didn’t really address my argument but, rather, simply asserted that justice is deservedness, and gave examples of things you would call just. Suffice it to say that I agree with you about the injustice of calling a murderer a freedom fighter (for example), but I disagree with you about why, and to whom, such actions constitute injustices. My article includes my answer in this regard.


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