"Justice" Q&A: What Does Another "Deserve"?

January 13, 2008 by  

At , Leonid wrote:“When man interacts with others then the question of justice may or may not include exchange of values.”

I disagree. Whether one evaluates justice/injustice as I suggest, or whether one estimates it by the “deservedness” of others, the evaluation always concerns an exchange. The exchange does not always involve another person. In the example I gave of the chain-smoker alone on an island, he exchanges what is left of his energy either for water or for tobacco. Every value (e.g., water/tobacco) has a price (e.g., in my example/scenario, physical energy/labour).

“You said that man cannot be unjust to another man, only to himself and in the process he only can hurt others.”

I didn’t say that he can only hurt others. I said that he might do so. But he might even benefit others when he is unjust. For example, in my second example above, the man who had collected water may exchange what is left of his water for what is left of the other man’s tobacco. The result is that the guy who receives the water actually benefits, even though the guy who gave the water has done an injustice (and will die, as a result). That’s why I submit that the “deservedness” of others has nothing to do with justice/injustice.

“This is not always the case. What happens when we give to somebody what he has NOT deserved?”

I deny that you can know what another person “deserves”, in the first place. You “deserve” from another only what you bargained for, whether or not what you bargained for was, to you, an objectively greater value than that which you traded for it. Only you are capable of knowing, objectively, what is a greater value to you. Neither I, nor the government, is capable of knowing what is an objectively greater value to you. Hence, neither I, nor any government, knows what you “deserve” except in the case that I, or the government, have entered into a bargain with you to provide something to you (whether or not it is an objective value to you).

I know what is an objective value to me, and I know whether the material or spiritual values that you offer to me are more or less valuable than that which I am willing to offer in return. If I give you something that is a greater value to me, in exchange for something that is a lesser value to me, I have done myself an injustice, but I have nonetheless gotten what I “deserve” because I “deserve” the consequences of my own decisions, whether rationally made or not.

“Would you claim that by giving Arafat,notorious murderer and terrorist Nobel prize for peace we actually hurted him?”

You make my point FOR me. If I were to be the person who owned the value of a Nobel Peace prize, and were I to transfer that value – that prize – to Arafat, I most certainly would NOT have harmed him, yet I would have done a great injustice. The reason: I exchanged something of value (my expressed admiration, in the form of a prize) for his viciousness. In other words, I exchanged a greater value for a lesser one, and that is why it was an injustice. Arafat was not harmed, and actually benefitted from the injustice, which is why I say that harm/benefit to others has nothing to do with whether or not my act was just or unjust.

“What about guy who has been unjustly promoted?

Same analysis as with Arafat, above. Again, you prove my point for me. The promotion is unjust even though the employee benefitted from the injustice.

“I think that justice includes much more then exchange of values. Unjust exchange could be performed only by using force.”

I disagree. Both the Arafat and employee examples above are situations involving an exchange of values (in each case: a value for something that is of less value, or that is a disvalue). Re-read the passage you quoted from the John Galt speech in your previous post.

“If somebody voluntary agreed to change water for tobacco it means that he values smocking more that his life (like most of the smockers do). You can,therefore, argue about his code of values, but you cannot call this exchange unjust.

The only way in which choosing to die can be considered just is if he would be left with no hope of achieving happiness were he not to smoke for two weeks while he waited for the rescue he knew to be coming in 14 days. As I see it, a 14 day waiting period is not tantamount to the elimination of hope for happiness thereafter. So, yes, I think I can conclude that it is unjust for the chain-smoker to choose tobacco over water in the scenario I provided.

“In my view justice is first of all value-judgment. That is-the most unjust action is the failure to make value-jjudgment.The rest is following.”

It is most certainly the case that one must judge values in order to know that one is making a just trade. However, it is possible to make a trade without thinking about the values involved at all, and still to end up (by chance) having not made an unjust trade. For example, if the guy who made the mistake of collecting tobacco (Y, in my example) was completely passive and non-thinking and simply agreed to exchange his tobacco for the other guy’s (i.e., X’s) water because that’s what X wanted him to, it would still be the case that Y did no injustice, and that X did do an injustice.


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