The Philosophy of Justice: Divine and Secular Good, Situational Ethics and Evil

Philosophy Forum September 9, 2007?

1.0 Definition of Justice

1.1 Part of what is called the classic triad of questions (truth, justice and beauty). Finds practical and rational resolution in linguistic pragmatics. Good and just propositions and actions have their own means of verification which are independent to those used by propositions related to the Truth or those of Beauty. "Goodness" is a normative statement, "Truth" is a constative statement, "Beauty" is an expressive statement. These linguistic criteria have pragmatic world relations (e.g., normatives; legal codes in the social world, morals in the personal world)

1.2 As with all rationalisation complexes in formal pragmatics there are points of connection and fragmentation between "neighbouring" complexes. For legal systems these are the systematic imperatives of efficiency, effectiveness, adaptability and latent pattern-maintenance (cf., T. Parsons, N. Smelser, Economy and Society, 1956), and personal moral standards (whose norms may conflict with the legal system). Apart from the aforementioned conflict with legal systems, personal morality may also conflict with individual standards of sensual pleasure.

2. 0 Theological and Philosophical Concepts of Goodness

2.1 A theological concept of goodness in morality and justice is often called "Divine Command Theory". This asserts an absolute standard of law and morals, that is, the word of God. It is famously challenged by the Euthyphro dilemma in Plato's, which asks: is something right because God commands it, or does God command it because it's right? William of Ockham supports the former, saying that God can change moral standards. A variation by Duns Scotus argues that cannot get the claims for objective morality wrong, as a feature of omnipotence. A variation is the philosophy of laws and morals by Thomas Hobbes which takes the "goodness and justice" by necessity theme and applies it to recommended absolute power of an earthly sovereign: Justice is created, not merely described or approximated.

2.2 A naturalistic notion of morality and justice notes that whilst nature is universal, laws are contextual, therefore some laws are closer to what nature demands (this observation was first made by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics and Rhetoric). It influenced Thomas Aquinas, the Maturidi school of Islam, and English Common Law, as well as the variant of Divine Command Theory of Thomas Hobbes (noted above). A more universal and rationalist orientation of natural law appears in Two Treatises of Government (1689), by John Locke and was profoundly influential in the writings of the Declaration of Independence for the United States of America (1776), the French Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen (1789) and up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). A somewhat tangental variation exists some evolutionary biologists that claim that morality and justice are ultimately a product of evolutionary forces, and thus are founded on emotional instincts.

2.3 Rational moral theory owes a great deal to the work of Immanual Kant (Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and Metaphysics of Morals (1797) ). Kant proposed morality via a 'categorical imperative', an unconditional obligation independent of our will or desires, based on the universality of application. A contemporary example is Morals By Agreement (1986) is a game-theoretic moral philosophy by David Gauthier. The skeptical philosopher Celia Green distinguishes between Tribal and Territorial Morality and thus applications of justice (majority view versus sovereign boundaries). According to thinkers in the social contract tradition, justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned; or, in many versions, from what they would agree to under hypothetical conditions including equality and absence of bias (cf., Lawrence Kohlberg on developmental moral reasoning).

3.0 Moral Principles and Situational Ethics

3.1 Situational ethics was originally a Christian ethical theory developed in the Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher (1960s). It states that moral principles can be put aside is a greater moral principle can be served. In Fletcher's view for Christianity, this is the absolute, universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people: Agap?. Applied to other moral systems it allows for a temporary suspension of principles in favour of context with justification on "reasonable belief" that a greater moral crime could be committed (e.g., lying to an axe murder who asks whether you have hidden a person in refuge)

3.2 A similar method used in justic combines deontological and utilitarian theories of justice by using case-based reasoning, or casuistry. By starting with the facts of a particular case and the most morally significant features, rather than ethical or moral theory (cf., Albert Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry 1988). Some empirical evidence exists suggesting that this method improves the possibility of agreement.

3.3 Direct application of moral principles and situational ethics in a legal context can be witnessed in different applications of distributive justice (what goods get distributed? To whom are they distributed? What is the right distribution?) and retributive justice (Why should the law punish? Who should be punished? How should they be punished?)

4.0 The Problem of Evil

4.1 Criminal behaviour must be distinguished from immoral behaviour; an act can be illegal but moral, legal but immoral etc although a society should attempt to bring the the legal and the moral together in the interests of harmony. The sociologist Robert Merton distinguishes individuals according to their relation between cultural goals and institutional means (conformists, innovators, ritual acceptance, retreatist, and rebels)

4.2 Antisocial behaviour is defined as psychopathological or sociopathological depending on origin. The anti-social behaviour Psychopaths tend to have temperamental problems which leads to misanthropic behaviour whereas in sociopaths the pathology arises from internalised experience.