Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The question 'What is Justice' raised on City Lit Course

Yesterday at City Lit and in our  Philosophy session we were on for  the search for justice.

We've most of us heard children complain 'it's not fair', can recall saying such things ourselves or still say it in some more sophisticated manner (why did X get promoted and not me?- it's not fdair I've been here longer and ...).
Is it fair that I can enjoy a walk in the park on a sunny day?

Well apparently it's another of those thorny issues that philosophers get their teeth (and noses) into- what do we think of fairness and is it something we should try and achieve in personal and public life?

Interestingly there's a tension between what is just and what is fair here's some food for thought on this.

Several times in the discussions on Justice in the classroom at City Lit I felt there was almost a slide into what we could call Politics, I suppose there is an inevitability in this, where the idea of the 'left' as perceived by some is that we're all entitled to the same treatment (say in Health) but if I choose to smoke is it fair that the NHS should spend more on me than someone who looks after him/herself.

I also felt that there was an undue emphasis on money and that fairness could only be seen under the lens of the Socio-economic system'  and thus money is the only measure of happiness and success.

There's also an idea that we are unable to make choices (a societal determinism I suppose))  and that can even negate us complaining of the outcomes.

When we say it is unfair that a nurse gets less pay than a pop singer I'm not sure that this is the case.

I tend to go with Maslov (Hierarchy of needs) in that once hygiene measures are met income is less significant to quality of life but may be seen as an analogue to the value that society puts on a particular function.

The truth (for me) is that life is not fair but in some respects this is okay  for example I'm not such a talented footballer as Wayne Rooney but I do not necessarily say that this is not fair as I do not aspire to play football for England or his way of life.


The traditional left has unfortunately struggled with the idea of allowing choice in certain areas but people generally make their choices in a manner that makes sense to them.

I would typically identify myself as being broadly on what is currently defined as the 'left' but I do not see it to be a progressive measure to tax people and then return some of this money to them in a way that the 'state' may direct - if I wish to spend money on private education I can not see this as something that the state needs to be involved in (either stopping parents or giving them or the schools an artificial and unfair tax advantage).


 The questions around the moral case for Taxation can be seen as a 'live issue'  and you can listen to an example with Michael Buerk  and assorted figures (ahead of Michael's Jungle outing) discuss this on  BBC radio's 'The Moral Maze'.

What you might find a useful thought experiment is to imagine a child of yours who you wish to see blossoming  being propelled into a 'fair society' this idea was termed the 'Veil of ignorance' by the twentieth century philosopher  John Rawls who imagined this conceptual thought experiment.


Well Justice is a complex issue that's for sure but next week is even more challenging when we look at 'Death.'
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