What Is Justice At All?

Tue, 27 Aug 2013 Source: Amenga-Etego, Sacut

A dialogue between two or three political philosophers 'concerning justice'!

The heir of this argument is a 'gentleman'. Here,we're not referring to an 'abrantie' as in Ghanaian parlance. In ancient Greece,a gentleman is one who is willing to stand up for, and defend his family and friends-not just the needs of the body. He is also concerned about defending the honor and safety of the polis (political community). He accepts the view that justice is 'giving to each what is owed' but he interprets it to mean a kind of loyalty to members of a family, friends, team or group. Doing maximum good to your friends and harm to your enemies. This gentleman see justice as a form of 'patriotic sentiment' that citizens of one polis feels for one another as opposed to others. Justice for him is devotion to one's own. And one's own is the good. One's own is the just.

Challenge from Another philosopher who thinks that:

Loyalty to a group cannot be a virtue in itself.He asked 'Do we ever make mistakes? Of course yes...Isn't the distinction between friend and foe based on a perception, a kind of knowledge on who is a friend and who is a foe? Have we ever mistaken a foe for a friend? Ofcourse yes... So how can we say that justice is doing good to our friends and harm to our enemies when we don't even know and cannot be sure who our friends or enemies are? Isn't such an unreflective attachment to one's own bound to result in injustice to others?

But the gentleman has an answer. The best polis knows who it's real enemies or friends are. The best city may be characterised by peace and harmony at home.

With such an unsatisfactory answer from the gentleman, he certainly needs some help from another who thinks he has some form of knowledge about justice and intends to teach it.

Justice he says is the interest of the stronger.Every polity is based on the distinction between the ruled and the rulers.Justice consists of the rules that are made by and for the interest and benefit of the ruling class. For him, the rulers determine the laws of justice. He believes that we're essentially beings who are first and foremost dominated by the desire for power and control. Power and domination is all we care about. This distinguishes the real man or the 'alpha man' from the slave.And what is true for the individual is also true for the collective things, states or cities.

Politics is a 'zero sum game'. There are winners and there are losers. The more someone wins, the more someone looses. And the rules of justice are simply the laws set up by the winners of the game to protect and promote their own interest.

Even as this gentleman seems to be making a good point, he has a challenge.

The question is repeated. Do we ever make mistakes? Of course yes...We agree that it is not self evident what our interests are. And if justice is truly in the interest of the ruler or strongest,then doesn't that require some kind of knowledge or reflection on the part of those in power to know what is really and truly in their interests?

The ancient Greece 'abrantie' replies that if a ruler makes a mistake concerning his true interests, then he is not a true ruler. A true ruler knows his true interests.

But he is still challenged. Justice is not power alone. Justice requires knowledge and reflection. Indeed, all virtue requires knowledge and reflection.

The gentleman refuses to give up. He replies that justice consists of convincing people to obey the rules that may interest others because of the fear of the consequences of injustice. Therefore, justice is only respected by the weak that fear injustice. A true ruler in some ways is one who has the courage to act unjustly for his own interest. A true ruler is like a shepherd with a flock but he rules NOT in the benefit of the flock but acts in his own interest. Justice is a virtue.

But what kind of justice is it to deceive and exploit other people?

Well, the ancient Greece 'abrantie' believes that a just person is a fool for obeying laws that are not beneficial to him. What do you believe Ghana 'abrantie'?

SaCut ''Commandante'' Amenga - Etego - The writer is a multi - media journalist, ghost writer and political activist in Ghana

Columnist: Amenga-Etego, Sacut