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October 5, 2006

Okay.

After reading the post by ThisUserNameIsMeaningful that I mentioned at the end of the post before last (I have no mastery of such extraordinarily complicated HTML mumbo jumbo like creating a link, so go find it yourselves), it has come to my attention that, as in the vast majority of arguments, we’re going to have to quibble about definitions of words before we can make any kind of progress. Like I said, we’re operating on different definitions of the word “justice,” so it doesn’t do that much good to defend something that I never even mentioned per se. But since you brought it up, we’ll go ahead to good ol’ Dictionary.com and see what it has to say. The first definition, naturally, is “the quality of being just,” which of course doesn’t explain anything to us. The first time it doesn’t have the word “just” in its own definition is in the fifth one:

5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.

Why, isn’t that interesting. Here I am, equating “justice” with “deserve” all this time, never knowing that the word “deserve” is directly in the definition of “justice.” And, moreover, there’s nothing in relation to “what should happen happens.”

But that’s okay, because literal definitions generally aren’t what matters; I just wanted to cover all the bases. Connotations and perceptions of a word are far more important in determining the general idea of what a word means. The thing is, my whole post was based on people’s perception of justice and how most people think of it in terms of deserved punishment and reward. So there’s the basis of my version of justice–what’s yours?

And, in addition to conflicting with the literal and perceptual definitions of justice, your definition of justice conflicts with itself. Because “what should happen happens” doesn’t fit together with the other part of your definition, which, ironically, is practically identical to mine for all of your attempts to separate it. You say that justice is “not the idea that good things only happen to good people and bad things only happen to bad people, but the idea that evil acts beget negative results, and good acts beget positive results.” That’s just a more specific version of what I said, since, as I mentioned some time ago, I believe that people are largely defined by their acts. In any case, it’s still based on the idea of deserved punishment and reward, so even after understanding that idea of justice, I still can’t agree with it.

Let’s go back to the Nazi example again, because there’s an important nuance here I want to discuss that relates to this. It has occurred to me, from more than one response to my post, that this was, in fact, a bad example, because people assumed that it is in response to the Nazi’s asking for forgiveness that you deliver it. But in my idea of grace, the Nazi actually doesn’t have to ask. That was just to heighten the intensity of dilemma–he’s waiting for your response. Dramatic effect, and nothing else. The point is, you forgive him even if he doesn’t ask, and that’s key. Because there are a number of reasons why someone wouldn’t ask for forgiveness, chief among them that they don’t think they deserve forgiveness, even though that contradicts the whole point of forgiveness in the first place. Others might not want it because they don’t think you’re qualified to give it out, although that doesn’t really make sense either–if there are no conditions for receiving forgiveness, I see no reason why there should be any for dispensing it. But in both of these cases, it doesn’t mean they don’t want forgiveness just the same, and there’s still no reason for them not to receive it if they want it. Of course, there’s also the possibility that the Nazi just plain doesn’t want forgiveness, which brings up another important point brought up that actually makes a lot of sense to me. Although it sounds counterintuitive, maybe some people are just happier and better off in hell than in heaven. That makes sense to me. But on the other hand, I think that the vast majority of people feel bad about the bad things they’ve done, even if they’re not sure, with their flawed perception of ethics, what exactly the bad things they’ve done are. Almost everyone wants to be forgiven, even though they may not always ask for it. It’s practically human nature.

Frankly, I think you’re trying to force justice to fit your worldview because, well gosh, it sounds so good when yelled out in response to someone asking what you fight for. Of course, as you said, that’s the response for heroes. Let’s play that word association game that Stephen Colbert does to predict the future and see what happens:

Heroes–Hero’s Journey–Western Canon–western literature–western culture–western religion! Hey, I mentioned that too, didn’t I? This post is just full of coincidences.

This is my whole point–that western culture is completely pervaded by the idea of justice, and as good as that sounds to yell at the top of your lungs, I can’t get that to fit my worldview. And, by extension, there shouldn’t be any conditions for forgiveness other than whether you want it or not. And if God is truly all-knowing, he’ll know if you want it. And you would never have to ask him, not once in your whole life.

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3 Comments
  1. you can’t escape it, chris. justice is truth is logic is everything you live for.there isn’t really a better way to respond. i don’t really know that you’re attacking people that even exist.

  2. I think you kind of cheated in your definition look up – just have to say that.Sure, it’s annoying when that happens in definitions; like when you look up Emperor and it says “the ruler of an empire”. But it’s only really important if you look up empire and it says “the domain of an Emperor”. You said you used the 5th definition of justice. Kind of far down the list – you could’ve just looked up, well, just.1. guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness: We hope to be just in our understanding of such difficult situations.Ok, so justice appears in the first definition, which isn’t helpful, but it’s also equated with several other ideas – Truth, reason and fairness.On to number 2 –2. done or made according to principle; equitable; proper: a just reply.Interesting- equitable, proper; it’s more than just “the administering of deserved punishment or reward” isn’t it? It reaches much deeper than that by both those definitions.Or at least your friend the dictionary would seem to indicate šŸ˜Ž

  3. You forget also that justice is dependant on who administers it; my ideas of it are different than yours simply by our expirainces. In addition, “what should happen happens” is confounded by the same problem.
    Forgiveness is a tricky subject, because it depends on if your using the “give up your quest for retribution/let God handle it” deffintion or the “you’ve paid your debts/no longer is this your crime” deffintion.
    Any way, Deus Mos Is.
    S.

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