Originally posted by DryBaboon
Why, thank you DA. I guess you knew I would pitch up here eventually - but hey, we already have a veritable socratic symposium going on here.
Hm, what can I add to this…
Well, I didn’t feel able to vote on the poll because I didn’t know what was meant by "justice"in your question -
By “Is revenge the root of justice”, did you mean to ask:
1- whether modern societal enactments of judicial punishment are (a) subconsciously or (b) overtly based on notions of revenge
2- whether Justice is best defined as institutionalised revenge
Presumably, since I talk about the the “roots” of justice, that would suggest origins. In which case definition #1 applies. It seems strange that you make the distinction between the two, if justice as we know it today was based on notions of revenge, then unless it has been overhauled along the way (which it hasn’t) then it is still, for all intents and purposes, revenge, although perhaps distanced from the victim via institutionalisation.
Originally posted by DryBaboon
The question here, as I see it, is whether the “retributive” aspect of the justification of punishment is nothing more than a dressed-up expression of the basic primal response of revenge.
Revenge is seen as an uncivilised (and as I characterised it in the other thread, immature) response to public or personal injury, so is our view of “Justice” essentially hypocritical and nothing more than an imposition of the strong (society) on the weak (the individual)?
What type of primal are you referring to? Definition #1 of primal from a dictionary is “original, primitive”, definition #2 is first in importance or fundamental. Presumably from the context of your phrasing, you mean #1.
At which point, why is revenge a primal response? I actually believe that it is a bit more evolved than one might originally be inclined to believe. Part of revenge is a survival instinct, someone or something hits you, you hit back. Another part of revenge is a social instinct, because, if you believe (like I do) that revenge is necessary for the social fabric of justice, then it follows that coherent and civilised societies are based on revenge (or “institutional revenge/justice”).
Also, how would you distinguish between a primitive response and an evolved response? It seems fairly arbitrary and subjective. The only consistent (no comment on sensibility) definition I seem to come across is that negative emotions (anger, hate, etc.) and/or those that predominantly focus on the individual are primitive, while positive emotions (serenity, happiness, etc.) and/or those that predominantly focus on the collective are evolved. If that is your definition, then it needs some justification before revenge is labelled as primal.
The assumption that revenge is primal and uncivilised is unjustified. The whole point of the retributive act by a 3rd party is to maintain objectivity and to prevent disproportionate revenge by the victim. The judicial system which determines if action is appropriate sees to it, in theory, that the perpetrator is in the wrong in the first place. Perhaps, based on our social structures, revenge where the victim seeks out retribution personally is uncivilised; but revenge where the victim seeks out a 3rd party to arbitrate the matter and administer punishment is civilised. Its very enactment is an affirmation of how societies must be built on the principle of “proportionate consequence for a given action”.
To explain the latter statement, if there were no such thing as “proportionate consequence for a given action”, anarchy would reign. It is (naturally, I might add) expected that when you buy something, you pay for its costs; when you do wrong, you pay for the consequences and when you do a service, you get paid your worth.
The view of imposition of the “strong” (society) on the “weak” (individual) is misleading. First off, Strength is the only real authority. Society will be a dismal place if its authorities had no power to enforce laws. If police had no ability to jail people, write up summons or use force, no one (except, perhaps the people with immense consciences) will listen to them.
The “weak” in this context (if found guilty) was strong enough to cause grief to the “weaker” individual. The justice system just steps in to pull its errant member back in line. It is just a natural order of strength - the stronger as a collective punishing the weaker criminal who in turn commited a crime to an even weaker (or perhaps, more vulnerable) individual. There is nothing hypocritical here.