March 31, 2004

Justice. What a slippery word.

Closest I can come, perhaps, is the idea of unfairness, that we are not treated as others are treated ... but, well, you, o abstract and probably non-existent reader, already know what I think of fairness and its related concept of equality. Life is not fair, cannot be fair. We are not raised within societies whose laws are equal, or often even equivalent. Even where the attempt is made to apply laws equally, we cannot be equally subject to the laws which do exist, because what is defined as "normative" behaviour within a society does not require legislation to maintain. (Perhaps a major reason why most laws tend to be "thou shalt not's"?) We did not have equal voice in creating those laws or in taking part in that slow systemic metamorphosis which resulted in their current form, and so they cannot be equally in our image. We do not and will never have equal access to resources. (Says the person who is writing this blog from a computer, to be possibly read by those reading on computers.) We do not have equal upbringings.

We are not created equal. We are not raised equal.

It is the nature of life that it be diverse: and within any diversity, value hierarchies will arise such that there are qualities that will be more valued and qualities that will be less valued. Really, would we want every aspect of our lives to be absolutely equal to everyone else's? Diversity is the spice of life!

Given a pre-existing lack of equality, as sentient beings we translate experience, our own and that of others, into a personal concept of justice: and when lack thereof is perceived, there is a very powerful temptation to resort immediately to rational structures to endorse, enact, and, well, rationalise what action we feel to be necessary in order to obtain the image of justice which reflects and expresses us.

Morality is a rational thing, as is legality. Should that commonality of structure be anything of a surprise? But rational approaches cannot resolve situations which arise from irrational motivations.

Logic is a relative thing, yet each and every logic structure is treated as a rational absolute. Irrational at its core!

Which logic to base morality on? and that attempted reflection of societal morality, law? Apart from what cores the existence of law in the first place, which logic will I choose to define this approximation of fairness, this personal choice as to what is to constitute, in my mind, for all intents and purposes the greater ultimate good? (For any close approximation of fairness, I feel, should approach what is felt by those receiving it to be good.) Do I go utilitarian, and define this ideal as the greatest possible happiness for the greatest number? What, then, of the generally beneficent society made so at the expense of one single person? The original aim was to approximate fairness – and within my own (il)logic structure I think no minority, no matter how small, should be excluded from that attempt.

Do I go the deontological direction, and suggest that value is defined solely by intention? that the outcome does not matter, so long as the intention behind it was beneficent? (The road to hell is paved with good intentions ... )

Do I choose to base my judgement on the incidental byproduct of a set of virtues adhered to? Which virtues? Who will choose them, and define them?

A thousand possible definitions, a hundred thousand, one or more for every person on the planet: and who has the right to take on the personal responsibility to decide on behalf of all of them? and who has the right to create "rational" structures to impose that choice upon others?

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