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Ayn Rand's Justice

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whYNOT
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We were having a good debate on 'lies' that went a bit sideways (mea culpa), into the concept of Justice; or, the morality in not concealing truth, when an injustice of any kind is about to be commited to an other.

I've often thought that the Virtue of Justice in O'ism is misunderstood at times, and isn't discussed enough.

There are plenty of references that influenced me back then in Rand's writing - "Judge, and prepare to be judged." "The courtroom of one's mind" etc.

My own take on judgement and justice, that was not , I thought, implicitly expressed by her, was that judgement has two sides - the negative, and the positive. For me, the speed with which you do one, you should also do the other. ('Give credit where it's due.')

I should have known better, because of course, she did explicitly explain it. I had forgotten, but

I finally found the quote in 'The V.O.S.' :

"Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally, a RATIONAL man regards strangers as innocent until proven guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential....{A}

"If he finds them guilty of MAJOR evils, his good will is replaced by contempt and condemnation.....{B}

"If he finds them to be virtuous, he grants them personal, individual value and appreciation, in proportion to their virtues."{C}

(Caps, and lettering, mine).

Rand laid out a lot here. No other philosopher as far as I know, made personal judgement, and individual justice a crucial part of ethics.

I want to examine those two emphases. First, can I be as RATIONAL, in depth, or in consistency, as Ayn Rand could? No. But not many can claim that capability, and of course that doesn't preclude any O'ist from being the most rational as possible, OR, from increasing his capability, there.

Conclusion: my judgement of a person should, I believe take a little longer, as a result.

Second, what constitutes a MAJOR evil? Examples of this are posted and discussed regularly on this forum. It might be easier, in fact, to identify lesser and minor, vices. My observation is that too often, judgement is passed upon people of confused, contradictory, and mixed premises - people who, given time and thought, and their "Human potential", will learn, and self-correct, their errors.

Conclusion: before I condemn, carefully establish the size and scope of a person's 'evil'.

Therefore, with two options open to me, each containing the danger of injustice,{C} - the granting of value to a person, who is perhaps not worthy of it; and {B} - possible irrevocable condemnation of someone who may not deserve it ;

I resolve that I must always 'grant that initial good will' as long as is rationally tenable, and certainly only as far as my selfishness is not compromised.

I.M.O., then, 'benevolence' is a sub-virtue, waiting for the application of the main virtue, Justice.

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Imagine a scientist thinking about some topic. He has made a few observations in the field and has got (say) three hypotheses. Would you say that he is pursuing the virtue of rationality, or merely the sub-virtue of "hypothesis-creation"? Also, do you think this is a parallel to your Justice-benevolence example?

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Imagine a scientist thinking about some topic. He has made a few observations in the field and has got (say) three hypotheses. Would you say that he is pursuing the virtue of rationality, or merely the sub-virtue of "hypothesis-creation"? Also, do you think this is a parallel to your Justice-benevolence example?

Now that's a poser; haven't you got an easier one? :worry::)

Okay let's see.

Yes, I think there is a distinct parallel, not just an analogy, as I first considered.

Both parties, scientist and 'benevolent-judge', begin by closely observing their subject.

Each is utilizing Reason - not pursuing it, surely? - towards the final objective.

For both the objective is exactly the same : truth, and reality.

The methodology is similar in both cases; here it is more of an analogy, between the scientist setting up his hypotheses, and the 'b.-judge' applying his sub-virtue of benevolence. Until all the facts are in, both are testing all possibilities, and suspending final judgement, for now.

So, *hypothesis creation* = (corresponds to) *personal benevolence*. And, *scientific discovery/thesis* = (corresponds to) *justice*:- the final conclusion.

In each case, too, the process from start to finish will not necessarily be a smooth continuum - trial and error, dead ends, fits and starts, and tentative, early theories, will likely play a part.

All of which are essential if a serious error is to be avoided. A scientist who cuts corners, and rushes to publication, is going to end up with egg on his face! As will we, by misjudging a person.

The "courtroom of one's mind" sums it up beautifully.

(Thanks for that one, s'Nerd. My pleasure, Quo Vadis.)

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So, *hypothesis creation* = (corresponds to) *personal benevolence*. And, *scientific discovery/thesis* = (corresponds to) *justice*:- the final conclusion.
However, consider that the parallel breaks down in one respect. "Hypothesis creation" is a combination of two things: (1) some positive notions about what might be true; and, (2) the acceptance that these are not certain, but still need further testing.

However, when one speaks of "benevolence" the way you're doing, I think you're mainly to the second part: the fact that one's current judgment is uncertain. The term does not encapsulate the first part: any notion you might have about the truth of the person being judged.

So, would it be a better parallel to say "benevolence" : "justice" AS "uncertainty" : "knowledge"?

Another way to put it: in the context of justice, the parallel to "hypothesis creation" would "suspicion" (i.e. a term that signifies that there's something there, but no certainty about that something). So, couldn't we really say that suspicion is the sub-virtue? I don't think it is, but wouldn't that be closer?

Edited by softwareNerd
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However, consider that the parallel breaks down in one respect. "Hypothesis creation" is a combination of two things: (1) some positive notions about what might be true; and, (2) the acceptance that these are not certain, but still need further testing.

However, when one speaks of "benevolence" the way you're doing, I think you're mainly to the second part: the fact that one's current judgment is uncertain. The term does not encapsulate the first part: any notion you might have about the truth of the person being judged.

So, would it be a better parallel to say "benevolence" : "justice" AS "uncertainty" : "knowledge"?

Another way to put it: in the context of justice, the parallel to "hypothesis creation" would "suspicion" (i.e. a term that signifies that there's something there, but no certainty about that something). So, couldn't we really say that suspicion is the sub-virtue? I don't think it is, but wouldn't that be closer?

Suspicion is the thought while benevolence is the act, no? Whereas justice is thought and act combined?

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Suspicion is the thought while benevolence is the act, no? Whereas justice is thought and act combined?
No, one can fell suspicious or benevolent and act on those two, or not act. One can conclude that a certain type of behavior is justified in justice and act on that, or not act.

The OP seems to conceptualize "benevolence" is a "innocent until proven guilty" attitude. As such, it component of justice, but I would not call it a sub-virtue. It is justice to consider rational evidence and no more.

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I suppose my deepest sense of 'good will'- 'benevolence' is one that evolved from Ayn Rand's own "Courtroom" metaphor. It's a concept that contains within it 'fairness', impartiality, respect for human dignity, and, sure, innocence- until- proof-of-guilt.

If I had to define it simply: Goodwill is the intermediate suspension of judgement, until all the evidence is in.

It does not mean a cessation of reasoning; it does not mean being soft on the subject person. It does entail granting a basic level of human respect (in the name of human potential, as Rand strikingly puts it.)

This "human potential" phrase BTW, I take to mean that a person can grow and change, which she wouldn't have mentioned, if she did not expect O'ists to apply discretion in their judgement. No?

More, she definitely specified 'major' evil in that V.O.S. excerpt I quoted, which indicates to me her emphasis on further discretionary judgement.

One more interesting thing is the last part about "in proportion to their value". Does this mean that the corollary of condemning a person "in proportion to their vice" , is also true ? I'm not sure.

(I am willing to concede that in all this, I may have extrapolated more than Objectivism actually teaches; either that, or Ayn Rand expected us to join the dots, between goodwill and justice, for ourselves .....) :pirate:

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Huh, I had never thought of benevolence in terms of temporarily suspended judgment due to incomplete evidence...

Here are some points worth considering though:

First, can I be as RATIONAL, in depth, or in consistency, as Ayn Rand could? No.

Why on Earth not? Rationality is "one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours." (Lexicon) Having more limited knowledge or ability does not make you less rational. My understanding of O'ism is that moral perfection is considered normal and expected; since rationality is a virtue rather than a term describing someone's ability, it should be something fully achievable for everyone (and ought to be fully achieved, by everyone).

Second, what constitutes a MAJOR evil? Examples of this are posted and discussed regularly on this forum. It might be easier, in fact, to identify lesser and minor, vices. My observation is that too often, judgement is passed upon people of confused, contradictory, and mixed premises - people who, given time and thought, and their "Human potential", will learn, and self-correct, their errors.

Conclusion: before I condemn, carefully establish the size and scope of a person's 'evil'.

Actions and premises can be considered evil only when they are volitionally chosen; if someone is so "confused", provided they have an active mind and are willing to listen to why those things are evil, there's still hope and such beliefs might be considered more minor. If two premises are contradictory, though, chances are they do not have an active mind, and are not committed to rationality nor pride. That's evil in my book, if they don't change course almost immediately when it's pointed out.

And yes, one judges a man in proportion to vice. Condemning your socialist neighbor to the same extent as Pol Pot is either going too far or nowhere near far enough.

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