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« Paul Russell on Fate | Main | Cécile Fabre on Cosmopolitanism and War »

January 14, 2011



Aristotelian justice seems fine but... Suppose we have 10 violinist positions in the world, it would be then just to give these to the 10 most capable violinists in the world. But there are suppose other 90 violinists whose best skill is violin playing and whose other skills / talents, say, are non-existant. Then what is the most just thing to do with them?

I believe questions like this might appear often as a society with increased globalization and population, we face the problem of more efficient performance and hence fewer jobs, and yet growing population, and hence greater demand on these jobs. The position that those best fit for the jobs should do them is great, but then we have to decide what should the rest do.

Another example, one could have a little doubt, that in the art of propaganda, few would compare to Goebbels. He well qualified to run his agency, so one can argue that he justly got the position, and excelled in the skill a propaganda minister had to have: he spun the ideas of his party/government. So being so qualified for the position, would it be truly 'just' for people like Goebbels do be even close to the positions of power? Or should we in fact have some other ways to measure the justice, other than pure a pure execution skill?


I was very surprised by the number of people willing to steer the train into the side rail. I would definitely have been in the minority there and the reason people gave for their decisions didn't seem very educated. What was with the genocide one, that didn't even make sense. And somehow pushing the fat man off a bridge is murder but running someone over with train INTENTIONALLY isn't? Really? The fat man isn't chosing to give his life. But the man on the side rail is? What? These kids are nutters!

Chris Cousineau

I found that this conversation wandered far and wide from it's focus. Justice is distinctly different from morality or ethics. Our ideas of right and wrong are layered, and while "just" is a necessary part of all three layers, what is "justice" operates on a much larger level than the other two.

If we take Moral to stem from "moray" or cultural values, we can see instantly its attachment to Justice, but in more modern times, morals operate on an individual level. While they may be influenced by cultural values, they are instituted individually as acts of individual will. Kant was writing about moral, specifically the metaphysics of morals. He wasn't discussing Justice while he was certainly discussing "justice."

Justice is perceived to operate at a social level, the city, state, country level. Justice deals almost exclusively with social acceptability. I understand discussing Utilitarianism and Aristotle's theories here, but I think Kant was thrown into a fight he didn't train for. The example of Germans feeling responsible for the decisions of their elders actually fits in perfectly with Kant as each of them is acting as though that action should be a universal maxim. However, other discussions in your program didn't really fit Kant as Kant is not very interested in government or law. Most of your discussions of Justice revolved around legality and law as an extension of morality. Kant wasn't concerned about your going to jail or being executed for doing the right thing. It seems that he was writing because he was concerned that group membership absolved persons from their individual accountability, similar to Thoreau, who was discussing Kant's sentiment in terms of social justice particularly. He also seemed concerned about situational ethics, the "supposed need to lie."

His focus on the individual is a focus on morality, not justice.


I was confused when Sandel said the violin belongs...

I'm not sure if it "belongs" anywhere (hand of viiolinst or wall).

It seems to me the greatness of the violin is at least from two factors: craftsmanship and the sounds perceived from that craftsmanship by an accomplished performer. Violins on walls make no sounds and are only 1/2 as great.

Pearls ought not to be given to swine for they have no appreciation for pearls.

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