Thursday, September 08, 2005

Kyler Robinson: Justice

Kyler M. Robinson
Comparison Philosophies
Rob A Skiff
September 6, 2005



When posed with the question “what is justice?” Socrates instead pushed the question back onto the gathering of young men. Of these young men, the most clear and, in my opinion, most exacting understanding of justice comes from Thrasymuchus. He breaks justice down to the will of the strongest or powerful. While agreeing with this concept, though Socrates himself does not, I think it is best to examine what the terms of this concept hold.
It seems that the idea of the will of the strongest works best when the whole overbearing task of defining justice is brought down to what is justice in society or how justice can be brought into practice. In this way you break down the barriers of good versus bad that most often stems from the side of the conflict you are on. From this stand point I found the nearly everyone I asked failed to give me the same definition for when I posed them the question as to what justice is. Indeed Mark Lucey went as far as to say that justice was an arbitrary concept that humans created that bears no real meaning. This indeed gets to the heart of the argument. Justice is only arbitrary when it is left to be defined by the polis.
When a word with as much weight as justice is left to the masses to decide many ideas can come out leaving the real true answer unfound. When you say your answer is not valid you may even infringe on a concept of the justice of casting off an opinion. But before you cast my opinion off as just some rant let me bring the question back to Thrasymuchus’ thesis. When it is so very clear that the polis cannot come up with an answer or definition, it should be the governing body that decides the rules and codes behind the term. This governing body (the powerful) defines the laws of the society and the rules for daily conduct. It is only natural that they also define the tenets that surround a far-reaching concept such as justice.
The case where perhaps this is best shown is in a democratic society where the governing body fairly represents the population but has the foresight to look beyond themselves and their own goals but look at the function of society and where laws are governed by society and what is socially acceptable. While society itself can spur notions of justice to apply to various specific conflicts but lack all-inclusive definitions. Thus, like all things, the governing body must steer its people towards some goal and fit justice in with it. The creation of laws and punishments for infractions of those laws, a system to judge whether or not these laws have been violated; this is the way that justice can happen in a society.
Indeed this model can be magnified just as you can zoom out on it and still have it ring true. Thus allowing for checks wherein the replications of an action can be brought into what a larger group finds whether or not it fits into the justice model with the codes and statutes attached to it. If it meets the code well it is indeed just, if it does not than the case must bring consequences against the defender. And furthermore if the general population feels that the current rules and regulations attached to the justice of the given conflict does not ring true to the overall goals of society their governing body may well change the rules to better fit different situations. Perhaps this shows the great importance of precedent in courtrooms. It is always about the overall society with respect to a specific case.
Going back to the notion of this definition of justice being served as specific to general let us take a certain situation, very specific. The situation can be analyzed by many groups, starting locally, the local area may set its verdict based on traditions of the region but again that verdict might not be truly just. You can then back it out to a larger region, to a country and see if it fits a stringent set of rules and conduct codes of the society and then you may yet let justice be served.
Justice cannot be random and emotionally charged. Justice must be dictated by strict guidelines for if it is not dictated by guidelines it merely breaks down to become one person’s opinion. Instead it should be brought more to scientific exactness. Reason and logic based on codes set for by society. And who controls society? It is the powerful and the strongest. These leaders who truly lead, that is who have a God-given art of leadership must thus set for the rules and social codes so that society may well function.
“And what about the pilot? Is the man who is a pilot in the correct sense a ruler of sailors or a sailor?”
“A ruler of sailors”
“I suppose it needn’t be taken into account that he sails in the ship, and he shouldn’t be called a sailor for that. For it isn’t because of sailing that he is called a pilot but because of his art and his rule over sailors.”
“True,” he said.
“Is there something advantageous for each of them?”
“Certainly” (341c-d)

This seems to point back to the fact that not everyone is ready to be a pilot, to be a leader. Instead it is necessary to have people who have an art of leadership. Leadership establishes rules and conduct for all of society and therefore it should be of no surprise that these rules and conduct feed back into justice of a society where rules and conduct for violations of the rules and conduct also apply. This allows society to function and allows for consequences in every violation, which also reflects consequences for every situation in life, which ultimately reflect society.

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