“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
- Exodus 23:1-7
Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
- Deuteronomy 16:18-20
“Imagine that a group of strangers is marooned on a desert island, and that, after giving up hope of being rescued, they decide to start a new society from scratch. Each of the survivors wants to further their own interests, but each also sees that they can only do so by working together in some way-in other words, by forming a social contract. The question is: how do they go about establishing the principles of justice? What rules do they lay down? If they are interested in a truly rational and impartial justice, then there are countless rules that have to be discounted immediately. For example, the rule ‘If your name is John, you must always eat last’, is neither rational nor impartial, even if it may be to your advantage if your name is ‘John’.
“In such a position, says Rawls, what we need to do is cast a ‘veil of ignorance’ over all the facts of our lives, such as who we are, and where we were born, and then ask what kind of rules it would be best for us to live by. Rawls’ point is that the only rules that could rationally be agreed on by all parties are ones that genuinely honor impartiality, and don’t, for example, take race, class, creed, natural talent, or disability into account. In other words, if I don’t know what my place in society will be, rational self-interest compels me to vote for a world in which everyone is treated fairly.
“It is important to note that for Rawls this is not a story about how justice has actually arisen in the world. Instead, he gives us a way of testing our theories of justice against an impartial benchmark. If they fail to measure up, his point is that it is our reason, and not simply our charity, that has failed.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
John Rawls (1921-2002) proposes something here that seems perfect in its simplicity. He admits that modern justice does not measure to his “pure” standard, but he never asks the question, “Should it?”
Note that the photo of a work of art in New York City is not of blind justice at all. The statue shows justice blind folded, but one half of the scale is in each hand, and it is up to justice to tip the scales one way or the other, not an impartial fulcrum.
Too many factors today have been imagined in black and white. I am not considering skin color here, but that could apply in many cases in the past, present, and future.
My focus is in the issues of the day where one special interest group says “east” while another says “west.” I will avoid opposites such as white-black as it seems we are discussing skin color, left-right as it seems we are discussing politics, up-down as it seems one way is absolutely right while the other way is absolutely wrong.
The “east” folks want “east” ways to be the law while the “west” folks want “west” ways to be the law. You will never come to a middle view where everyone is in consensus.
Being a certified facilitator for team-building meetings where consensus is a mandate, you never have true consensus – something everyone can live with – unless everyone sacrifices their views. Not a few people in the minority, everyone must sacrifice so that all will find something that they can live with. Thus, no one gets what they truly wish to find in the ultimate outcome of the team’s effort.
Maybe that is why team building in the 80s died in the 90s, if not while the 80s were still going on.
This may be at the core of what John Rawls laments when he hints that justice is not truly blind.
In modern secular society, countless politicians that cling to Christian values are shouted down because Christian values are only applicable to Christians. Yet, the secular society does not censor Zen Buddhism for example. I used to watch a weather program until they showed a beautiful scene on a live video feed and said, “And now a moment of Zen.” They were not taken off the air, but if they said, “And now a moment of Christian reflection,” they might not have had a job the next day.
Yet, in the end, we will all go before God, and, if we are humbled by His presence, we will not wish justice, but Mercy. We can never stand up to God’s standard. We can only be washed clean by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. The only ones that survive that judgment are those found in the Book of Life, for they have surrendered their will to God.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.