Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Few Tidbits on Justice

By Diana Hsieh

Yesterday, I was pretty well enraged by Matt Stone's attack on Jimmy Moore in Poor Poor Jimmy Moore. I've been disgusted with Matt Stone before -- particularly for his penchant for absurd diagnoses via blogs and even tweets -- but this post was utterly beyond the pale. Happily, I knew that Richard Nikoley was writing a response -- and that he did that so very well in Poor Poor Matt Stone. I was delighted to see justice done -- not just by his spanking Matt Stone, but also by his defense of Jimmy Moore and others.

Yet in this case, mere words are not enough. Matt Stone isn't an honorable critic of paleo diets. His behavior over the past few weeks has been utterly uncivilized, presumptuous, and even belligerent. For that, he deserves to be shunned by all decent people, particularly people in the paleosphere. Neither Matt Stone, nor anyone else, should be permitted to so unfairly abuse some of our most awesome paleo and paleo-friendly peopleguys -- most notably Mark Sisson, Dr. Kurt Harris, Jimmy Moore, and Richard Nikoley -- with impunity. These people have been extremely generous with their time and energy, mostly for free. They deserve our gratitude -- not just in word, but in deed too. You don't shake the hand of the man who spits in the face of your benefactors and heroes.

In light of that, a post on the Objectivist virtue of justice seems fitting today.

Justice, as Leonard Peikoff's explains in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, is "the virtue of judging men's character and conduct objectively and of acting accordingly, granting to each man that which he deserves." I have a lengthy essay on justice from NoodleFood that I want to rework a bit, then post to Modern Paleo. However, for that to make sense to MP readers, I'll need lay some ethical groundwork. So for today, I thought I'd just post a few choice quotes on justice from Ayn Rand.

First, from her epic novel Atlas Shrugged:

Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that you must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, by as pure and as rational a process of identification--that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly, that just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a rotter above a hero--that your moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to financial transactions--that to withhold your contempt from men's vices is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement--that to place any other concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral currency and defraud the good in favor of the evil, since only the good can lose by a default of justice and only the evil can profit--and that the bottom of the pit at the end of that road, the act of moral bankruptcy, is to punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices, that that is the collapse to full depravity, the Black Mass of the worship of death, the dedication of your consciousness to the destruction of existence.
Second, a fabulous dissection of the concept in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:
What fact of reality gave rise to the concept "justice"? The fact that man must draw conclusions about the things, people and events around him, i.e., must judge and evaluate them. Is his judgment automatically right? No. What causes his judgment to be wrong? The lack of sufficient evidence, or his evasion of the evidence, or his inclusion of considerations other than the facts of the case. How, then, is he to arrive at the right judgment? By basing it exclusively on the factual evidence and by considering all the relevant evidence available. But isn't this a description of "objectivity"? Yes, "objective judgment" is one of the wider categories to which the concept "justice" belongs. What distinguishes "justice" from other instances of objective judgment? When one evaluates the nature or actions of inanimate objects, the criterion of judgment is determined by the particular purpose for which one evaluates them. But how does one determine a criterion for evaluating the character and actions of men, in view of the fact that men possess the faculty of volition? What science can provide an objective criterion of evaluation in regard to volitional matters? Ethics. Now, do I need a concept to designate the act of judging a man's character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion? Yes. That concept is "justice."
And third, a warning from the essay "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society" in The Virtue of Selfishness.
It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men's virtues and from condemning men's vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you--whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?
Chew on that for a spell, dear readers!

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