Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

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Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by Lawskeptic » August 4th, 2017, 9:48 am

The famous slogan for natural law theorists is:
"An unjust law, is not a law."
Often the above has been heavily misconstrued, so I will go with the iron-man argument: what is just/morally good ought to be law, and what is unjust ought not to be, and can't be in the real sense because law presupposes justice.
So what is justice? The idea is that moral good can be objectively determined through human reason. This is necessarily assuming that "human reason" is capable of being objective. Right? (I'm legitimately asking if I'm construing this correctly, I don't want to misinterpret the view before I even get started)

I will be arguing that "human reason" cannot be completely objective.

Let's start with an example, and take Aristotle's (a naturalist's) advice, to always ask why, instead of what.

1. Why is slavery unjust/wrong?
Potential Answer (the answers I give I think are the most convincing, you can give all sorts of answers, but ultimately the same conclusion is reached): Slavery is unjust because it inhibits liberty, potentially our own, or that of others.
2. Why do we value our liberty?
A: Because it aids in our well-being and flourishing.
3. Why do we value our well-being and flourishing?
A: Because it aids in our survival.
4. Why do we value our survival????
A: I don't know how to answer this, it's like asking ourselves what the meaning of life is, finding the answer and then asking our selves what the meaning is of that. We just value it. Almost all of us are wired to want to survive, it's why we exist, i would go so far as to say we have no choice in the matter. But, is there something inherently "good" about the survival/existence of humans in the grand scheme of the universe? Ought we, objectively speaking, exist? It's a morally neutral question, the universe doesn't care whether humans exist or not.
Objectively it's not necessary that we ought survive, so how can we say that it is we ought to uphold human well-being and liberty because they are inherently, objectively good, and out-law slavery because it is inherently bad?


I'm not sure where I'm going with this, or if I've gotten my point across. Ultimately, I agree with quite a bit of Natural Law Theory, but I just cant get on board with the idea that there is inherent bad or good outside of the human experience.
I would make the argument that slavery ought to be outlawed, not because slavery is inherently unjust/bad, it's just counter-productive to what we we want: liberty --> well-being --> survival. So slavery is bad, and liberty good, only as a consequence that treating them as such gets us to our final goal, not because they're inherently so.
What legal theory would my above reasoning fit under?
I agree with Natural Law Theory in the sense that human reason determines "good" and "bad", but i would add that human reason is subjective and we have very little choice, if any, in the matter, and so we can't say that we "ought" to do anything.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by Hereandnow » August 13th, 2017, 8:48 pm

Lawskeptic:

The famous slogan for natural law theorists is:
"An unjust law, is not a law."
Often the above has been heavily misconstrued, so I will go with the iron-man argument: what is just/morally good ought to be law, and what is unjust ought not to be, and can't be in the real sense because law presupposes justice.
So what is justice? The idea is that moral good can be objectively determined through human reason. This is necessarily assuming that "human reason" is capable of being objective. Right? (I'm legitimately asking if I'm construing this correctly, I don't want to misinterpret the view before I even get started)

I will be arguing that "human reason" cannot be completely objective.

Let's start with an example, and take Aristotle's (a naturalist's) advice, to always ask why, instead of what.
so far, there seems to be issues: The slogan seems more like a wish than a reality, for there are many laws that are unjust; in fact, I would argue that there are no just laws. Let me know if you care to hear this. As a preface: even the most morally aligned law, t he one with the greatest defensibility, is flawed justice. all laws, therefore, are unjust. It is not a morally perfect world, and any attempt to make it such is necessarily unjust in its execution.

Not sure why you go after the morally good as if it is some kind of Platonic form. The law in embedded in the world, and terms like 'justice' are abstractions built out of the way our thinking tends collectively.




1. Why is slavery unjust/wrong?
Potential Answer (the answers I give I think are the most convincing, you can give all sorts of answers, but ultimately the same conclusion is reached): Slavery is unjust because it inhibits liberty, potentially our own, or that of others.
2. Why do we value our liberty?
A: Because it aids in our well-being and flourishing.
3. Why do we value our well-being and flourishing?
A: Because it aids in our survival.
Where did that premise come from?? You have it backwards: survival is valued because it is essential to our well being. Survival itself is not logical foundation of a defense of value. Who cares about survival as such? It is the "well being" part that is the end here.

4. Why do we value our survival????
A: I don't know how to answer this, it's like asking ourselves what the meaning of life is, finding the answer and then asking our selves what the meaning is of that. We just value it. Almost all of us are wired to want to survive, it's why we exist, i would go so far as to say we have no choice in the matter. But, is there something inherently "good" about the survival/existence of humans in the grand scheme of the universe? Ought we, objectively speaking, exist? It's a morally neutral question, the universe doesn't care whether humans exist or not.
Objectively it's not necessary that we ought survive, so how can we say that it is we ought to uphold human well-being and liberty because they are inherently, objectively good, and out-law slavery because it is inherently bad?
It is probably more simple than you think. Only value can be the root of a moral justification. Why value? It is self justifying. Now, in a world of conflicting/competing values things get confusing, but the value itself, the value of, say, this burrito, abides unchallenged.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, or if I've gotten my point across. Ultimately, I agree with quite a bit of Natural Law Theory, but I just cant get on board with the idea that there is inherent bad or good outside of the human experience.
I would make the argument that slavery ought to be outlawed, not because slavery is inherently unjust/bad, it's just counter-productive to what we we want: liberty --> well-being --> survival. So slavery is bad, and liberty good, only as a consequence that treating them as such gets us to our final goal, not because they're inherently so.
And what is it to "want" such that to be counterproductive to this would be a basis for the unjustness of slavery? Once the smoke clears, it is pure utility. Now, how utility is measured,divvied out, managed: this is matter for culture and moral logic to work out. Tough affair, but the end is respect for persons across the board, and respect for persons is to be reduced value/utility.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by GE Morton » August 19th, 2017, 11:57 am

Lawskeptic wrote:so what is justice? The idea is that moral good can be objectively determined through human reason. This is necessarily assuming that "human reason" is capable of being objective. Right? (I'm legitimately asking if I'm construing this correctly, I don't want to misinterpret the view before I even get started)
Yes, you are misconstruing the term "justice" before you even get started. Justice has nothing to do with "determining the moral good."

To ascertain the meanings of words we consult dictionaries. Justice consists in securing to each person what he or she is due:

"1. The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due;

http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/justice

"3. The rendering to every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one's conduct or motives."

http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/justice

"1a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments . . ."

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justice

Hence, a law is just if it aims to secure to each person what he is due; unjust if it works to deprive persons of something they are due, or fails to deliver what they are due..

But how do we determine what a person is due? A person is due, or deserves, whatever he has earned or otherwise merits through some action on his part. E.g., the sprinter who wins his race is due, he deserves, the gold medal; the third-grader who aced her spelling test is due, deserves, a gold star; the worker who has performed the tasks assigned to him is due his paycheck.

Justice should not be confused with the contemporary neologism "social justice." That term is not only redundant (justice presupposes a social context), it is oxymoronic --- it equates justice with material equality, which can only be achieved by depriving some persons of things they are due --- by seizing or withholding things they have earned or merited --- and handing them over to someone else.
1. Why is slavery unjust/wrong?
Because it violates the precept of Equal Agency --- the axiom that all creatures satisfying certain criteria are moral agents and have equal status per a sound moral theory.
Ultimately, I agree with quite a bit of Natural Law Theory, but I just cant get on board with the idea that there is inherent bad or good outside of the human experience.
Above, you said you doubted whether "moral good can be objectively determined." Here you speak of "inherent good." Something can be objectively good without being "inherently good." Nothing is "inherently good." That is a vacuous claim. Goodness (and badness) are not a properties of things; those terms only denote the significance or value of a thing to some person. Goods are simply those things a person desires to acquire or retain; evils are things a person desires to avoid, or be rid of. Thus things are only good or evil, have value or disvalue, relative to some person, the valuer.

But I said that some things are objectively good. That is because some goods are end goods, others are only means goods. End goods are things deemed by some valuer to be "good in themselves;" i.e., possessing them brings some sort of pleasure or satisfaction to the possessor. These are the goods which are all relative to persons and therefore subjective. A means good, on the other hand, is something that is necessary, or effective, or useful for securing some end good. Whether X is necessary or effective or useful for securing Y is often an objective matter, and can be determined empirically. For example, a hammer and nails (means goods) are objectively good if one wishes to build a wooden birdhouse (end good).
I agree with Natural Law Theory in the sense that human reason determines "good" and "bad", but i would add that human reason is subjective and we have very little choice, if any, in the matter, and so we can't say that we "ought" to do anything.
What we "ought" to do, or ought not do, morally speaking, has nothing to do with what we value. The "oughts" only concern the means we employ for securing those goods, whatever they may be, in a social setting where our actions can affect other moral agents.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 19th, 2017, 1:19 pm

Justice is fairness. Lawskeptic perfectly pointed out that fairness is not absolute. We think it is, but in practical terms it is not possible to achieve.

Fairness comes to its demise when two or more people wish to partake in a resource that is not enough for each among all of them.

The perfect example to point this out is the "evil" in your enemy.

In the cold war era, Americans thought Russki Bolshevik Communists were evil. And the Russki Bolshevik Communists thought American institutions were evil.

Both groups loved their children, wanted to live in peace, and live a happy and fulfilling life. There was virtually no difference between individuals in the two groups.

Yet, the people in the opposite group were considered evil, and to be destroyed or reformed.

In fact, in Russia and the Soviet Union, in those years, it was illegal to operate a capitalist concern. And in the USA it was illegal (still is) to form a party with a communist platform.

This says enough about the fallibility of absolutism of fairness and of justice in the real world.

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Consider two women who argue over a child whose he is. The two women know. But they can't by themselves come to a satisfactory ending of their debate. So they go to a judge.

The judge is baffled. He is all ready to create a just decision; he is all about justice. But his hands are tied, inasmuch as he has no tools to measure which women says the truth, and which is lying.

Here, truth exists, fairness is either served or given disservice, but the person who has to be fair has no clue which of his two alternative actions is fair and which is not.

00000000000000

Consider two man have a dispute, and go to their rabbi to make justice. Based on fairness, of course.

One argues that he lent the other five shekels, and he demands it back. It's his money, he claims. "You're right," says the rabbi.

But the borrower of his friend's money says, "Yes, rabbi, but I can't give it back to him because I am broke, and have only half a shekel, and if I give it to him, my first-borne son will die of starvation. I should keep the money." The rabbi replies, "You're right."

The first one to speak pipes up again: "But rabbi, we both can't be right!" The rabbi thinks for a second, then with a surprized face says, "you're right!"
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by GE Morton » August 19th, 2017, 3:21 pm

-1- wrote:Justice is fairness.
That is an equation traceable mainly to Rawls. But they are not identical, and the two terms are not synonyms. Fairness is a broader term, vaguer, and heavily context-dependent for its meaning and implications. Justice is more specific, being concerned specifically with the distribution of rewards and punishments (see the definitions above). In most contexts fairness implies equality; justice never does (although all moral agents are equally entitled to justice).
Fairness comes to its demise when two or more people wish to partake in a resource that is not enough for each among all of them.
The question about what distribution of the resource is fair OR just depends upon what the resource is, and who owns it. If all of them have equally valid claims to it, then only an equal distribution is fair, or just. For example, if the resource is the Earth's atmosphere, then all persons, arguably, have equally valid claims to its use. But if the resource is a bushel of wheat raised by Alfie, then only Alfie has a valid claim to it. Similarly, if the resource is vein of gold discovered by Bruno, then only Bruno has a valid claim to it. Any distribution of those latter resources decided upon by Alfie and Bruno will be just, but few lefties will deem them "fair" if they are not equal.
In the cold war era, Americans thought Russki Bolshevik Communists were evil. And the Russki Bolshevik Communists thought American institutions were evil.

Both groups loved their children, wanted to live in peace, and live a happy and fulfilling life. There was virtually no difference between individuals in the two groups.
Those do not contradict. While Americans thought Soviet institutions were evil, and vice-versa, they didn't necessary consider American (or Russian) people to be evil. Indeed, the rhetoric on both sides called for "freeing" the people on the other side from their oppressive rulers and institutions.

But your example confirms my statement above --- goods are things someone desires to acquire or retain, and evils things someone desires to avoid, or be rid of. Both are thus subjective and agent-dependent.
Consider two man have a dispute, and go to their rabbi to make justice. Based on fairness, of course.

One argues that he lent the other five shekels, and he demands it back. It's his money, he claims. "You're right," says the rabbi.

But the borrower of his friend's money says, "Yes, rabbi, but I can't give it back to him because I am broke, and have only half a shekel, and if I give it to him, my first-borne son will die of starvation. I should keep the money." The rabbi replies, "You're right."

The first one to speak pipes up again: "But rabbi, we both can't be right!" The rabbi thinks for a second, then with a surprized face says, "you're right!"
Your examples show that it is not always possible for a third party to determine what is fair or just. That doesn't change the meaning of the word or diminish the utility of the concept. In most cases the acting agent has sufficient information to make a just decision.

The two men and the rabbit example requires a bit more moral theory to resolve. But it is resolvable.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 19th, 2017, 5:35 pm

GE Morton wrote: The question about what distribution of the resource is fair OR just depends upon what the resource is, and who owns it. If all of them have equally valid claims to it, then only an equal distribution is fair, or just. For example, if the resource is the Earth's atmosphere, then all persons, arguably, have equally valid claims to its use. But if the resource is a bushel of wheat raised by Alfie, then only Alfie has a valid claim to it. Similarly, if the resource is vein of gold discovered by Bruno, then only Bruno has a valid claim to it. Any distribution of those latter resources decided upon by Alfie and Bruno will be just, but few lefties will deem them "fair" if they are not equal.
Your example is very Amerikanisch. It conveniently puts the crop in Alfie's possession, and the vein of gold into Bruno's possession, so they can execute a neat trade.

America has been blessed by wide, open skies, golden fields of wheat, factory smoke as far as the eye can see, and mom, apple pie and liberty. There is no need, because there is plenty of everything. Living is easy, with vast expanses of arable land and lots of jobs to take and get paid for.

Imagine the European version. There is no gold vein - gold has been mined to extinction in 2000 years of constant search for it.

Alphie has a bushel of corn. Bruno has nothing. Not anything of value to sell, or to trade. He has LITERALLY nothing. So is he going to trot away and tell his children who are dying of starvation, that it is only fair that Alphie has the corn, because Alphie grew it and harvested it.

What is Bruno to do? Sue Alphie? On what grounds? The law is not on Bruno's side.

But Bruno must act to steal some of the corn to save his children.

This is what I meant by scarce resources.

The law will be on Alphie's side, Bruno goes to jail, his kids will be charges of the state, put in orphanages where they will try experimental drugs on them. This is not far fetched, the orphanages of Ceaucescu's Roumania experimented with AIDS drugs on the male orphans. The female orphants, I don't know what happened to those.

This is what I meant when I said justice and fairness clashes with morals and survival (I actually did not say this, I apologize), when the resources that more than one parties want is not enough for each person concerned.

This is why I say that natural law is not possible to exercise in the justice system.
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by Hereandnow » August 19th, 2017, 5:41 pm

GE Morton:
That is an equation traceable mainly to Rawls. But they are not identical, and the two terms are not synonyms. Fairness is a broader term, vaguer, and heavily context-dependent for its meaning and implications. Justice is more specific, being concerned specifically with the distribution of rewards and punishments (see the definitions above). In most contexts fairness implies equality; justice never does (although all moral agents are equally entitled to justice).
If one says "it's not fair, but it's just," that person has a lot of explaining to do. And it could come to something close to your definitional distinction; but how do then provide the language needed to critique injustice when you set aside the moral authority of fairness? For we often think that something terminating in justness has no undoing. It implies the moral issue is settled, not just the conventional or contrived issue. In short, by relativizing justice to a given system, you make the term morally arbitrary, and that is not what justice is about. Just any law that is a law, is not thereby just.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 19th, 2017, 5:46 pm

GE Morton wrote: But your example confirms my statement above --- goods are things someone desires to acquire or retain, and evils things someone desires to avoid, or be rid of. Both are thus subjective and agent-dependent.
That is true, both Bruno and Alphie want the corn, which is good to eat. It's a goods.

But theft... is evil for Alphie, and goods for Bruno. Alphie does not want his corn to be stolen; theft of his corn from him is evil. Theft of his corn from him is goods for Bruno, because he can avoid certain death via stealing corn from Alphie.

This is where one thing can both be evil and good, and illegal at that. Theft. In circumstances where resources are not enough to go around for everyone.

When justice (legal) is served, a goods has been judged to be evil. From Bruno's view point. This is the crux I wished to exemplify. Theft is not evil for Bruno, yet it is illegal. This is where the natural law breaks down.
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by GE Morton » August 19th, 2017, 8:38 pm

-1- wrote:Your example is very Amerikanisch. It conveniently puts the crop in Alfie's possession, and the vein of gold into Bruno's possession, so they can execute a neat trade.
Conveniently? The wheat only exists by virtue of Alfie's efforts; the gold by virtue of Bruno's. Had those efforts not been expended no one would have wheat or gold. Alfie's efforts to produce something of value violates no right of any third party, deprives no one of anything he had before, and creates no obligation on his part to assume responsibility for anyone else's welfare.
Alphie has a bushel of corn. Bruno has nothing. Not anything of value to sell, or to trade. He has LITERALLY nothing.
If that is the case then it is HIS fault, no one else's.
So is he going to trot away and tell his children who are dying of starvation, that it is only fair that Alphie has the corn, because Alphie grew it and harvested it.
If he is an honest person that is exactly what he'll tell them. If he is a responsible and honorable person who takes his parental obligations seriously he'll reflect on the consequences of his previous indolence and negligence and acquire some skills that will allow him to earn a living.

Of course, if he is a parasite who believes others are responsible for his welfare, or a predator who resents others' successes, he will steal what he desires to have, or vote for politicians who promise to steal it on his behalf. If that is his choice then jail is where he belongs.
This is what I meant by scarce resources.
All human-made or human-discovered resources are scarce --- until someone begins producing them or searching for them. Both require skills and effort. Those who fail to acquire those skills or invest those efforts have no valid claims against those who do.

-- Updated August 19th, 2017, 8:59 pm to add the following --
-1- wrote:
GE Morton wrote: But your example confirms my statement above --- goods are things someone desires to acquire or retain, and evils things someone desires to avoid, or be rid of. Both are thus subjective and agent-dependent.
That is true, both Bruno and Alphie want the corn, which is good to eat. It's a goods.

But theft... is evil for Alphie, and goods for Bruno. Alphie does not want his corn to be stolen; theft of his corn from him is evil. Theft of his corn from him is goods for Bruno, because he can avoid certain death via stealing corn from Alphie.

This is where one thing can both be evil and good, and illegal at that.
Anything can be both an evil and a good, at the same time, because both are agent-dependent. That is not the case with justice, however. Justice is indifferent to the desires of agents; its definition makes no reference to anyone's needs or desires. If Bruno takes something from Bruno that Bruno is not due, then he commits an injustice, regardless of whether he considers the theft good. Whether an act of an agent is just or unjust is an objective matter.

-- Updated August 19th, 2017, 9:21 pm to add the following --
Hereandnow wrote:If one says "it's not fair, but it's just," that person has a lot of explaining to do.
Only a lefty would face that problem, because for (most) lefties "fairness" implies equality, while "justice" does not.
And it could come to something close to your definitional distinction; but how do then provide the language needed to critique injustice when you set aside the moral authority of fairness?
The concept of fairness (as currently used and understood by many people) is too vague, slippery, and context-dependent to afford any moral authority. One would criticize an act as unjust on the basis of a sound moral theory.
In short, by relativizing justice to a given system, you make the term morally arbitrary, and that is not what justice is about. Just any law that is a law, is not thereby just.
I have not relativized justice to any particular system --- I don't think. The definitions I've given make no reference to any system. But I'm not sure what sort of system you mean here. Could you amplify?

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 20th, 2017, 12:12 am

I read your definition of just or justice, GE Morton. It reads, in part:

"3. The rendering to every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one's conduct or motives."

Here's the part that you may be overlooking: Due to one's conduct or motives. You are focusing on the conduct. You completely ignore the motives.

Why? Why do you make such a cherry-picking move in your analysis? You MUST include motivation, since it is part of the definition. I find it a violation of logic of your willfully ignoring part of the definition. And I can't argue against logic which is faulty.

Please read it carefully: conduct or motives. One or the other alone will satisfy the condition. The two together will satisfy the condition. Only when neither is present, is the condition not satisfied. That is the nature of the connective "or".
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by GE Morton » August 20th, 2017, 1:49 am

-1- wrote:I read your definition of just or justice, GE Morton. It reads, in part:

"3. The rendering to every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one's conduct or motives."

Here's the part that you may be overlooking: Due to one's conduct or motives. You are focusing on the conduct. You completely ignore the motives.

Why? Why do you make such a cherry-picking move in your analysis?


Well, because I don't see how motives figure into any of the examples being discussed. What motives on the part of either Alfie or Bruno would entitle Bruno to a share of Alfie's wheat --- would make the wheat due to Bruno?

Motive is included in the definition mainly to cover cases of noble efforts that fail. E.g., someone who tries, but fails, to save a drowning person is due thanks and praise --- his motives were praiseworthy, even though his efforts failed.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 20th, 2017, 6:36 am

GE Morton wrote: Well, because I don't see how motives figure into any of the examples being discussed. What motives on the part of either Alfie or Bruno would entitle Bruno to a share of Alfie's wheat --- would make the wheat due to Bruno?

Motive is included in the definition mainly to cover cases of noble efforts that fail. E.g., someone who tries, but fails, to save a drowning person is due thanks and praise --- his motives were praiseworthy, even though his efforts failed.
You admit that there is dues due due to diligence and displayed effort to somebody who fails at the effort. But motivation is named, not failed effort. That is your addition to the definition. You are altering the definition. You don't have the right to do that.

If you have the right to alter the definition then I have the right to alter the definition. And you certainly don't want that.

So let's stick with the definition. The definition names motivation as a deserving force. No word about failed efforts.

------------

Bruno, the loser whose kids are starving to death, is motivated to feed them. He has to acquire food for them. He is due some food, because he is motivated to get some. This is not denied by the definition you provided.

So maybe socialism, or leftism as you call it, has its philosophical root on the fact that those are also deserving of sharing in the goods, who do not have the means of acquiring said goods. They are deserving of life, life sustenance, for instance. Even if they did not work for it. This may be (I don't know if it is) one tenet of socialism.

Remember, I am only going by your UNALTERED definition.
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by Hereandnow » August 20th, 2017, 10:02 am

GE Morton:

Hereandnow wrote:
If one says "it's not fair, but it's just," that person has a lot of explaining to do.


Only a lefty would face that problem, because for (most) lefties "fairness" implies equality, while "justice" does not.
And it could come to something close to your definitional distinction; but how do then provide the language needed to critique injustice when you set aside the moral authority of fairness?


The concept of fairness (as currently used and understood by many people) is too vague, slippery, and context-dependent to afford any moral authority. One would criticize an act as unjust on the basis of a sound moral theory.
In short, by relativizing justice to a given system, you make the term morally arbitrary, and that is not what justice is about. Just any law that is a law, is not thereby just.


I have not relativized justice to any particular system --- I don't think. The definitions I've given make no reference to any system. But I'm not sure what sort of system you mean here. Could you amplify?
No, not just "lefties." Look, you seem to be entertaining a fiction set up in the minds of those who would like to see a change in language to reflect a hard reality, one which liberals are missing in their mistaken equation of fairness and justice. Here you want to bend 'justice' to create a new paradigm of what is right by law by explicit leaving out fairness. And in doing this, you change the discourse on matters of right and wrong, which is part and parcel of what our justice system is supposed to be. A system of justice that ignores fairness? But then, you could be suggesting that fairness is an ancillary consideration, one that can be invoked in certain cases where one must judge like cases in like ways.

But the complaint I have is that removing fairness from justice as an essential definitional part constitutes a misrepresentation of what justice is. The law against theft is inherently a law of fairness, is the point. Consider judging like cases in like ways as an undeniably an expression of fairness. Now this is what I would set aside for now, because I am making a stronger claim. I am saying that regardless the standing of an application of a law in a context of varied but similar cases, the law itself is fairness, that laws qua laws are therefore fair; and that to say a law is unjust is to say it is unfair.

Likely this doesn't set well with you. Here is the argument:

All laws should be just (not, all lawful decisions are just. There is a difference here that I don't see reflected in your thinking). Let's call this an analytic truth, a tautology. To be legal and unjust is a contradiction, and the legal side of this is called upon to change. De facto systems of jurisprudence can be very unjust. Just systems are analytically just.

So there is a law that punishes stealing, say. The justification for that law is complicated in a complicated system, but here the idea is relatively simple: The punishment for stealing assumes the guilty party is in fact guilty, which means it was an act in knowledge of the law. I did say "assumes," which is important as we live in an imperfect world where assumptions often replace facts. Of course, we all know how muddled this gets, and I don't want to go there. The assumption of guilt, this is interesting as it is an essential feature of justice, regardless of how absurd the laws are: your sentence is just because you're guilty. To me, this also is analytic, and any judge worth her gavel's thunder will tell you. This is not to go deeply into issues of free will; free will is assumed, period. And the less free,the less accountable (in a perfect world, that is; not in this one).

So it's not so much that an unjust law isn't fair in the like cases judged in a like manner sense. An unjust law is not fair in that all justice requires a fairness in the moral dynamic between individual: there must be equality between, on the one side, a free and knowing agent of action, and on the other the world of just laws. That is the essence of justice. Any of this breaks down, then what it is to be just breaks down. This is why we have degrees if criminal behavior, whether it was a freedom compromising passion that was in play, whether a bad childhood figures in, or if one is a child or mentally ill: these matter because any application of the law is only just if there is equal balance between knowing-in-freedom (an odd locution, but so what? That is why things are) and doing. This is why a failings in justice are called unfair.

-- Updated August 20th, 2017, 11:59 am to add the following --

just went over this. Typos are observed. Meanings need unpacking.

GE Morton
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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by GE Morton » August 20th, 2017, 1:14 pm

-1- wrote:Bruno, the loser whose kids are starving to death, is motivated to feed them. He has to acquire food for them. He is due some food, because he is motivated to get some. This is not denied by the definition you provided.
Heh. That is perhaps the most tortured interpretation of the definition of "justice" I've ever heard!

Your claim seems to be: Anyone motivated to acquire or do X is due X, or the power to do X. You might want to think that through.

First, you seem to be equating "motivated" with "desires." A motive is the reason behind an action. Questions of motivation only arise in the wake of actions. Bruno's mere desire for food does not constitute motivation to acquire food. We can only assess his motives after he has taken some action to acquire food. Once he has acted we can assess both his motive and the action. While his motive --- his desire to feed his children --- may be praiseworthy, the action he took to secure it may not be.

Secondly, surely not everyone motivated to acquire X can be due X. All of of the sprinters competing in the Olympics 100 meter dash are motivated to win. Are they all due gold medals? All of a princess's suitors are motivated to win her hand. Must she marry them all? Everyone who buys a lottery ticket is motivated to win, as evidenced buy their acts of buying tickets. Are they all due a payout?

Finally, for every claim that someone is due something the following questions arise: What he is due? From whom is it due? All questions of justice presuppose some underlying, prior contract, agreement, or promise. The winner of the 100 meter dash is due the gold medal; the worker who completes the tasks asked of him is due his paycheck. But from whom are those due? Well, from the person who made the agreement or entered into the contract with him, or who made that promise. The sprinter is not due a gold medal from you or me; the worker is not due a paycheck from his next door neighbor, unless that neighbor also happens to be his employer. Only the Olympic Committe has an obligation to award the gold medal; only the worker's employer has an obligation to deliver a paycheck.

Your Bruno may well be motivated to feed his kids, which we can know because he has taken some (unsuccessful) actions to that end. For that effort he may be due praise and sympathy. But he is not due any food from Alfie, because there was no prior promise or other commitment from Alfie to supply Bruno with food under certain conditions. And if Bruno takes food from Alfie by force he is clearly committing an injustice against Alfie, who is due that food, by virtue of his action in producing it.

Lefties have always been hard-pressed to devise some plausible rationale for stealing. They like to argue that everyone is due, or "deserves," food, shelter, health care, etc., merely because they exist --- "because they are human," or "because they're citizens of . . . "(fill in the blank). That is what they disingenuously call "social justice" --- which, of course has nothing to do with justice, which concept, as we have seen from the dictionaries, is a function of merit. They wish to sever that link between justice and merit, thus creating "entitlements" to goods and services these newly "entitled" persons have done nothing to earn or otherwise merit.

It is the Left who is doing the re-defining here, not me.
So maybe socialism, or leftism as you call it, has its philosophical root on the fact that those are also deserving of sharing in the goods, who do not have the means of acquiring said goods. They are deserving of life, life sustenance, for instance. Even if they did not work for it. This may be (I don't know if it is) one tenet of socialism.
Ah --- and there you have it. On what basis, per what criteria, are they deserving? Note that you cannot claim that "everyone is deserving of X" without rendering the term useless. Like most words, "deserving" is used to make a distinction, between someone who deserves X and someone who does not. Similarly, you can't claim that "everyone is tall" without rendering that term useless. Unless there are some people who are not tall, the word "tall" serves no purpose, at least when used to describe people.

All those terms --- "is due (or owed)," "deserves," and "justice" are moral terms devised to distinguish certain acts from others --- namely, acts which are morally acceptable or obligatory from acts which are morally unacceptable or forbidden. A claim that "everyone deserves X" is merely an attempt to abolish that distinction.

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Re: Does Natural Law Theory reach a dead end?

Post by -1- » August 20th, 2017, 2:33 pm

GE Morton wrote:
-1- wrote:Bruno, the loser whose kids are starving to death, is motivated to feed them. He has to acquire food for them. He is due some food, because he is motivated to get some. This is not denied by the definition you provided.
Heh. That is perhaps the most tortured interpretation of the definition of "justice" I've ever heard!

Your claim seems to be: Anyone motivated to acquire or do X is due X, or the power to do X. You might want to think that through.

First, you seem to be equating "motivated" with "desires." A motive is the reason behind an action. Questions of motivation only arise in the wake of actions. Bruno's mere desire for food does not constitute motivation to acquire food. We can only assess his motives after he has taken some action to acquire food. Once he has acted we can assess both his motive and the action. While his motive --- his desire to feed his children --- may be praiseworthy, the action he took to secure it may not be.

Secondly, surely not everyone motivated to acquire X can be due X. All of of the sprinters competing in the Olympics 100 meter dash are motivated to win. Are they all due gold medals? All of a princess's suitors are motivated to win her hand. Must she marry them all? Everyone who buys a lottery ticket is motivated to win, as evidenced buy their acts of buying tickets. Are they all due a payout?

Finally, for every claim that someone is due something the following questions arise: What he is due? From whom is it due? All questions of justice presuppose some underlying, prior contract, agreement, or promise. The winner of the 100 meter dash is due the gold medal; the worker who completes the tasks asked of him is due his paycheck. But from whom are those due? Well, from the person who made the agreement or entered into the contract with him, or who made that promise. The sprinter is not due a gold medal from you or me; the worker is not due a paycheck from his next door neighbor, unless that neighbor also happens to be his employer. Only the Olympic Committe has an obligation to award the gold medal; only the worker's employer has an obligation to deliver a paycheck.

Your Bruno may well be motivated to feed his kids, which we can know because he has taken some (unsuccessful) actions to that end. For that effort he may be due praise and sympathy. But he is not due any food from Alfie, because there was no prior promise or other commitment from Alfie to supply Bruno with food under certain conditions. And if Bruno takes food from Alfie by force he is clearly committing an injustice against Alfie, who is due that food, by virtue of his action in producing it.

Lefties have always been hard-pressed to devise some plausible rationale for stealing. They like to argue that everyone is due, or "deserves," food, shelter, health care, etc., merely because they exist --- "because they are human," or "because they're citizens of . . . "(fill in the blank). That is what they disingenuously call "social justice" --- which, of course has nothing to do with justice, which concept, as we have seen from the dictionaries, is a function of merit. They wish to sever that link between justice and merit, thus creating "entitlements" to goods and services these newly "entitled" persons have done nothing to earn or otherwise merit.

It is the Left who is doing the re-defining here, not me.
So maybe socialism, or leftism as you call it, has its philosophical root on the fact that those are also deserving of sharing in the goods, who do not have the means of acquiring said goods. They are deserving of life, life sustenance, for instance. Even if they did not work for it. This may be (I don't know if it is) one tenet of socialism.
Ah --- and there you have it. On what basis, per what criteria, are they deserving? Note that you cannot claim that "everyone is deserving of X" without rendering the term useless. Like most words, "deserving" is used to make a distinction, between someone who deserves X and someone who does not. Similarly, you can't claim that "everyone is tall" without rendering that term useless. Unless there are some people who are not tall, the word "tall" serves no purpose, at least when used to describe people.

All those terms --- "is due (or owed)," "deserves," and "justice" are moral terms devised to distinguish certain acts from others --- namely, acts which are morally acceptable or obligatory from acts which are morally unacceptable or forbidden. A claim that "everyone deserves X" is merely an attempt to abolish that distinction.
Bruno, I mean GE Morton, You have answered well, and you wrote a compelling and convincing essay. That is, a compelling and convincing essay if and only if you ignore the definition you yourself provided that defines what justice is.

I am bowing to your hard work. You are due some praise. But as an argument, it does not stand up, because you willfully ignored the wording of the definition you yourself provided.

In particular, in your entire essay you made special cases, and you conjugated (so to speak) the different varieties of considerations of what motivation is, and how it works out, but at the end of the day, you can't deny your own definition in an argument, and that's exactly what you did. That is a no-no.

I am quite frankly not satisfied with any argument that cherry-picks possibilities that are true, but ignores other possibilities that are also true, and makes incorrect conclusions that are correct only if the cherry-picked possibilities are considered, but are incorrect when all possibilities are considered. You, I believe, and this is my claim, have erred in your logic by altering the definition by creating special cases of it. That was not allowed.

So yes, your reasoning is solid, but your reasoning only involves special cases and ignores other cases. This you did by ignoring the wording of the definition.

You also have some unclear issues with regard to what motivation is. Motivation is a desire to fulfill unfulfilled needs. Motivation makes you fulfill your needs. In the psychological sense of the word. There are other senses, which have a meaning slightly different. "Joe motivates his fellow workers to work hard." Here it's manipulation. "Joey is well-motivated to do a good job on the Fairbanx report." This means Joey will work hard, but I doubt because he has a psychological need to work hard. It's more of a social need: he needs to finish it on time, and make it a good report, to please someone else. He may be punished if he does not please that person, and may be rewarded if he pleases him well (by creating a valuable report on time.)

You brought in the word "desire", and argued that that way my argument did not stand. But that was a rather weak argument, and it could be picked apart very easily.

The upshot is, as is my claim, that you can't ignore your own definition or parts of it, and ignore the implications that would be otherwise there.
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