Evils of Justice

Is justice fair distribution of resources & revenge? Is justice all good; would you like being brought to it? Has punishment been successful? Should wealth be distributed? Is "justice" a holy word?
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Evils of Justice

Post by wvanfleet »

The following is a modified version of something I wrote a few years ago:

I attempt to predict what our toddler species will be like when fully mature (as a result of the third exponential change already described at HomoRationalis.com). At that time, we will no longer be the victims of so much human-induced pain, suffering, disability, and early death (PSDED). Our language ability (first exponential change) and our science/technology (second exponential change) will no longer be so much in the service of our basic animal nature, including our naturally-occurring authoritarian ethics (that adds even more PSDED). Instead, newly developing rational-ethical principles will promote the good life for everyone, now and in the future.

"Homo rationalis," will look back upon us and shudder at what we do to each other. We now can only dimly grasp what their lives will be like, and therefore are understandably quite incredulous. In fact, perhaps nothing will stimulate our incredulity more than the difference between them and us regarding "justice."

Who would ever question the goodness of justice? Is it not one of our finest achievements, what we strive for all over this globe? Let us take a closer look.

Justice consists mainly of two components, "fairness" and "punishment," having mostly to do with the fair dispensation of punishment.

Fairness is one of our greatest achievements. It has to do with allocation of goods and hardship according to rules that promote the good life for everyone, rather than according to the shifting winds of power produced by advantage and intimidation. "Homo rationalis" indeed will value fairness as consistent with rational ethics.

Punishment is the deliberate induction of PSDED, in response to undesired behavior. Note already that this seems contrary to our wish to get rid of human-induced PSDED.

Of course, we have always punished. We assume that punishment is necessary to keep ourselves under control and prevent bad behavior. Even other species engage in it. It is built into ourselves as the basic tendency toward revenge. The other's bad behavior, causing me PSDED, must be met with the same, perhaps even more, so that it won't be repeated. My returning the PSDED makes me feel better (avenged).

And has it worked? Are we free yet of bad behavior? Our usual response is that we never will be, that “Homo rationalis” is an impossible dream. “We are just not like that.” “We are basically bad, needing coercion by threat of punishment to be good.” “We are sinners.”

“Homo rationalis” will agree that we are naturally prone to act in both good and bad ways, but they will use their wisdom to inhibit even strongly motivated bad behavior. This inhibition will be through the skilled production in ourselves of our most important motivational state, the “ethical sense,” the wish to do that which we believe to be right. The strength of this motivational state, the centrality of it in their cultures and lives, and the ability to figure out accurately the right thing to do, all will produce a life far different from ours. Our ethical sense is quite weak, due to unskilled child rearing and the inherent inadequacy of authoritarian ethics.

Punishment of children causes enormous PSDED, filling us with anger toward ourselves and each other. With enemies everywhere, we band together for protection, with our insignia of group membership, whether personal appearance, behavior, or stated beliefs. Cyclic attack and revenge, either private or formally meted out, have waxed and waned but never ended. From personal slight to crime to war, we refuse to empathize, forgive, and help. The battle of good (us) versus evil (them) rages on.

But we are beginning to understand this process and to change our natural behavior into skilled responses to bad behavior. From support group and psychotherapy to diplomacy and negotiation around the conference table, we are using our understanding of ourselves to fashion a better way of life. We are learning to talk with our “enemies,” till empathy and mutual understanding prevail.

“Homo rationalis” will recognize the natural inclination toward revenge and punishment, but will substitute understanding and the prevention of alienation. (They will recognize that some individuals, because of their personality defects, may indeed need maximum supervision and perhaps even indefinite quarantine, but such will be for safety, not revenge.) We don’t yet know how to do this, and punishment will be with us for a long time. But we are making progress.

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