30 Kasım 2010 Salı

Justice According to Plato and Aristotle

Justice has always been an interesting topic for philosophers and also for ordinary people. Justice can be defined briefly as “the fairness in the way that people are treated” (Collins Cobuild, p. 910). Plato and Aristotle, two leading figures of ancient Greek civilization, were earliest philosophers who thought about justice and developed theories about the sublime aspects of being just. This assignment is an attempt to prove that pursuing a life of justice would make living more worthwhile than being unjust or a combination of just and unjust life. In order to reach this point, I am going to explain the concept of justice and its superior aspects from the perspective of both Plato and Aristotle by taking help from their famous works “The Republic” and “The Nicomachean Ethics”. I will also give place to counter arguments and their rebuttals. I will make my own comments at the final part of the assignment.
Plato (427 BC-347 BC) was one of the earlier and most important philosophers of the world and is also known as the founder of “The Academy”. Plato’s most famous work is “The Republic” in which he tries to draw the qualities of a just individual and a just state by explaining the sublime nature of justice. In the first two books of The Republic, dialogues between different characters focus on different meanings of justice. During the conversation two conventional definitions of justice (“giving a man’s due” and “doing good to your friends, harm to your enemies”) are refuted brilliantly by Socrates and finally take the form of “doing good to your friends if they are good and doing harm to your enemies if they are bad” (Plato, p. 13). In the following parts of Book one, Thrasymachus appears with all his anger towards Socrates. Thrasymachus defines justice or what is right as “what is the interest of the stronger party” (Plato, p. 19) and rejects previous definitions. Socrates approaches to this definition analytically. He first makes it clear that according to Thrasymachus it is right to show obedience to the ruling power whatever the condition is. Socrates later by asking questions learns Thrasymachus’ view that rulers are not infallible and they are liable to make mistakes. So, he concludes that according to this equation, the justice can also be the interest of the weaker party since rulers are fallible and can make decisions that will harm and decrease their power and people have to obey orders whatever the condition is. Having his words turned around by Socrates, Thrasymachus gets angry and asserts that in any kinds of relationship the unjust person always gets the better then the just person. In order words, he suggests that the pursuit of self-interest or injustice pays better than that of justice. He makes the remark that justice can be morally better but injustice is always stronger. He concludes his words by saying that injustice always prevails over justice. Socrates rejects this view and begins refuting this view by explaining the supremacy of just way of living.
Socrates first claims that there are many different professions in the society which help other people such as being a doctor or a shepherd. He proves that the doctor’s function is not directly to increase his benefit and harming others. A doctor takes wage and makes profit only by curing the patient. Moreover, the doctor has a great responsibility about this patient’s health condition. Same can be seen for the shepherd who has to fatten his fleet of sheep. Shortly, Socrates argues that “any kind of authority, public or private, pursued only the welfare of the subjects under its care” (Plato, p. 28). That is why first of all, Thrasymachus’ claim is wrong because he accepts that rulers always think of their self-profit. However, from a Socratic perspective, a ruler’s power comes from his people and he is responsible for the well-being of these people. The second basis of Socrates’ rejection of Thrasymachus’ theory is that unlike Thrasymachus, Socrates claims that the injustice would create disunity and weakness rather than strength. He says that injustices cause quarrels and weaken the group whether it is a state or a family. “… whether it occurs in a state or family or army or in anything else: it renders it incapable of any common action because of factions and quarrels, and sets it at variance with itself and with its opponents and with whatever is just” (Plato, p. 38). Moreover, injustices produce hatred between people even in the ruling elite. So, people even in the ruling elite would try to supplant each other and the state will be weak and illegitimate because of the corruption and political struggles. Third basis of Socrates’ objection is about justice, which -Socrates thinks- is absolutely needed for men to perform their functions and to be happy. Since Thrasymachus also admits that justice is morally better and refers to the things which are done best by people’s souls and states, states and people would reach excellence only by being just and thus following a just way of life would be much more worthwhile than being unjust. Socrates’ views on justice are developed after Glaucon told the story of Gyges, a good shepherd who loses control after finding a ring that allows him to become invisible when he wants (Plato, pp. 46-47). Glaucon thinks that people don't practice justice for itself, but only for fear of what would befall them if they don't. However, Socrates makes it clear that a real just person does not seek the reputation of being just whereas unjust man tries to present himself like a just person to cover his corrupt affaires.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) is accepted as one of the founders of modern Western thought with his antecedents Socrates and Plato. Aristotle, who was tutored by Socrates’ student Plato, later became very influential in the development of the idea of scientism and scholastic ideology. Aristotle believed in the importance of observation and used “teleology”; the study of ends which claims that everything in this world goes purposely to an end. Aristotle in his famous work “The Nicomachean Ethics” explains the virtuous and superior nature of justice. First of all, Aristotle claims that justice can mean either lawfulness or fairness, since injustice is lawlessness and unfairness. In his view, laws encourage people to behave virtuously so, the just person, who by definition is lawful, will necessarily be virtuous. He says that virtue differs from justice because it deals with one’s moral state, while justice deals with one’s relations with others. According to Aristotle, justice must be distributed proportionately. For instance, a shoemaker and a farmer cannot exchange one shoe for one harvest, since shoes and harvests are not of equal value (Aristotle, book 5, part 5). Aristotle’s equation of justice with lawfulness can create a problem since laws can be unjust too. However, Aristotle refutes this idea again by separating political justice from domestic justice.
According to Aristotle, although political justice and domestic justice are related, they are also distinct. Political justice is about laws since “justice exists only between men whose mutual relations are governed by law” (Aristotle, book 5, part 6). So, political justice is governed by the rule of law, while domestic justice relies more on respect. Thus, Aristotle says “the justice of a master and that of a father are not the same as the justice of citizens” (Aristotle, book 5, part 6). An action which is lawfully just can be domestically unjust since domestic justice is derived from natural laws. Aristotle also states that an agent is responsible only for acts of injustice performed voluntarily and injustice done out of ignorance is called either “mistake” or “misadventure” (Aristotle, book 5, part 8). Some of the injuries caused by mistake or misadventure are excusable whereas some of them are not. When a man deliberately makes injustice this would be an injustice not misadventure or mistake and this man would be a vicious man. Since Aristotle cares too much about virtuous life, he clearly favors just people and just lives and thinks that a just life is much more worthwhile than an unjust life.
Having explained Plato’s and Aristotle’s views on justice and their responses to some counter arguments, I want to manifest my own views related to the topic. First of all, we see that both Plato and Aristotle think that a just person would have a much more virtuous and successful life. It is a fact that being just is a virtuous quality but from my point of view although it may bring spiritual confidentiality and happiness to a person, it does not guarantee the success in life. There are many successful people who achieved their success through unjust ways. Moreover, Aristotle is very rightful in separating misadventure and mistake from injustice since people can mistakes and accidents can occur without bad intentions. It is also a fact that the state and the judicial system would be much more valid and strong in the eyes of citizens if laws and punitions are very well balanced and made in a just manner. However, the story of Gyges shows us that being just is above acting in accordance with laws. People should not act justly just because of their fear of being punished. If this is the case, people would act unjustly when they have the opportunity. Rather we should create a society which is consisted of individuals who act justly because they believe that acting justly would be better for them and other people. Plato and Aristotle constructed two utopian state models in which in order to provide justice the ruling power is given to a philosopher king (in Aristotle’s model) or a class of philosopher Guardians who are able to produce better knowledge (in Plato’s model). But rather than giving the ruling power to an elite, in order to provide justice we could raise just children who will be just citizens in the future.
Finally, in my opinion a just life is much more worthwhile than an unjust or a mixed life. Being just provides internal happiness and calmness to a person as well as the respect and trust from others. Being just is also important from a religious point of view since in all major religions injustice is a bad thing.
· Plato, 1987, “The Republic”, London: Penguin Books
· Aristotle, 1998, “The Nicomachean Ethics”, Oxford University Press
· “Collins Cobuild English Dictionary”, 1995, London: HarperCollins Publishers

Ozan Örmeci

29 Kasım 2010 Pazartesi

Seymour Martin Lipset’s “Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics” chapter 2

Lipset’s definition of democracy is; “a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders (competitors) for political office”. In his idea, this definition needs to be supported by some conditions that are required for a consolidated democracy;

1-) A political formula, a set of beliefs shared by all people about the legitimacy of certain institutions (political parties, free press)

--> It is needed because if a political system is not characterized, limited by a value system, it would be chaotic (Latin American countries)

2-) A set of political leaders holding office

--> It is needed because if the outcome of political race is not to attain power and trying to stay at the government, irresponsible governments would emerge. Periodic awarding should take place at elections and a group that will have the privilege of taking decisions should hold the office. (Pre-fascist Italy and Third and Fourth French Republics) weak coalition governments

3-) One or more recognized political leaders attempting to gain office

--> It is necessary because if there is not a strong opposition, power-holders would be much more influential, stronger and popular influence on policies would decrease.

Lipset asserts that Max Weber was right in saying that modern democracy is the product of capitalist industrialization because stable democracies are only visible in the industrialized capitalist countries. He also mentions that although it is very difficult to draw conclusions from correlations, there are important determinants like income, education and literacy which are positively correlated with democracy. Of course, this criterion may not always lead us to the right conclusion (Germany example) and a comparative study of complex social and political systems must deal with the particular historical features of a country. In his idea, newly established democracies can only survive if they are able to create institutions and social conditions that favor democracy (literacy, civil society, autonomous private organizations).

Lipset later moves on to rank countries from more democratic to less democratic by using his criteria. His criteria consist of;

Prerequisite for being democratic:

- Uninterrupted continuation of political democracy since WW I

- The absence of a major political movement against democracy in the last 25 years

More or less democratic:

- Per capita income & GDP (Economics in general)

- Wealth which is measured by number of persons per motor vehicle, thousands of persons per physician, the number of radios, telephones and newspapers per thousand persons

- Industrialization, which is measured by the percentage of employed males in agriculture and per capita commercially produced energy being used in the country

- Urbanization, which is measured by the percentage of population in communities over 20.000 and over

- Education, which is measured by the percentage of literate people

After explaining these Lipset elaborates his views on the education. “It does not make men good citizens, makes it at least easier for them to become so”. Education increases tolerance and decreases chances for extremism. Lipset also asserts that education would increase the democratic understanding. He also adds that education only is not sufficient for a stable democracy but at least it is a necessary condition.

Turkey-Egypt example (Egypt is much more urbanized but the education level is low. This kind of inbalances decreases the chance of democracy.

Industrialization --> Urbanization --> Literacy --> Democracy

Some additional notes;

In countries which have been gradually industrialized communist parties are almost non-existent and socialist parties are weak (except UK). Especially in rapidly industrialized countries, the support for leftist extremism is higher. Among the Catholic nations of Europe except Austria, there are serious Communist movements unlike Protestant nations. The poorer the country, the greater emphasis on nepotism and corruption.

Ozan Örmeci

28 Kasım 2010 Pazar

David Held's “Violence, Law and Justice in a Global Age"

David Held in his article “Violence, Law and Justice in a Global Age” analyzes globalization and its effects on the law systems around the world. He begins the article by quoting famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant and claims that like Kant observed and predicted two centuries ago, we are living “unavoidably side by side” and our mutual interconnectedness as well as vulnerability have been growing rapidly. Held’s conceptualization is cosmopolitan for several reasons. After explaining “cosmopolitanism” I am going to explain how Held thinks and theorizes in a cosmopolitan manner.
Cosmopolitan by dictionary definition means “pertinent or common to the whole world” or “so sophisticated as to be at home in all parts of the world or conversant with many spheres of interest”[1]. Held believes that the world via globalization especially in the last decades has been producing universal norms and criteria in many issues and international legal thinking has become a reality of the 21st century. According to Held, globalization is not a one-dimensional phenomenon and its effects are everywhere. Emergence of international and supranational organizations, the victory of free-market economics over protectionist policies and the general trend towards creating an international tribunal are all examples of globalization in Held’s view. Held asserts that although some people still believe that nation states are the primary actors in politics, in reality societies and states have always been interconnected and there is a visible increase in the degree of globalization in the last years. What makes Held cosmopolitan is that he does not believe in separate nation states and totally different cultures but rather supports and believes in globalization for the sake of peace and human rights.
Held mentions that starting from Nuremberg and Tokyo International Tribunals after the Second World War, international legal thinking has been growing rapidly. Moreover, international laws are based on a cosmopolitan understanding and do not accept commands of national leaders as a cause of immoral behaviors. “The recognition in international laws of the offences of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity makes clear that acquiescence to the commands of national leaders will not be considered as sufficient grounds for absolving individual guilt in these cases”. He believes that in accordance with the decisions of Nuremberg Tribunal an individual has a duty to resist committing an immoral behavior even against the orders or national laws. Recent war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda were also motivated and acted by this principle. These are clear evidences for Held that we have been living in a globalizing, cosmopolitan world where there are supranational laws, institutions. Held talks about the efforts to establish permanent International Criminal Courts which was initiated by Clinton administration but withdrew by Bush administration because of the fear that American soldiers would also become targets of politically motivated prosecutions.
Held supports globalization because in his idea the prevention of the abuse of human rights and containment of armed aggression is only possible through international struggle against wars, terrorism and crimes. He also points out that in this new world order the abuse of human rights and crimes against humanity do not only occur in warfare but also in peace times. According to David Held, we do not have to differentiate war from peace because many terrible things such as 9/11 can happen during peace times in this globalized world. He advocates the deepening and institutionalization of international laws and claims that human rights and rules of war must be seen as two complementary forms of international laws. “Accordingly, the rules of war and human rights law can be seen as two complementary forms of international rules which aim to circumscribe the proper form, scope and use of coercive power”. Held does not underestimate the power of group thinking such as national policies, religious affiliations and local or ethnic values but rather claims that for the majority of the world these sources would not be applicable like in the past if they contradict with the universal norms. “Accordingly, the boundaries between states, nations and societies can no longer claim the deep legal and moral significance they once had; they can be judged, along with the communities they embody, by general, if not universal, standards”. Held also talks about the contradictory dimensions of globalization. In his idea, neo liberal system has been causing growing economic inequalities, political instabilities due to market fluctuations and reactions against globalization due to these problems. However, at the same time there is also the entrenchment of cosmopolitan values and laws. Economically globalization advocates deregulatory, neo liberal policies whereas politically and jurisdictionally it aims to create more and more laws, norms and order. This is the contradictory aspect of globalization in Held’s opinion.
Held’s thinking is cosmopolitan because he does not see these norms just as Western principles. “These principles are not just Western principles”. According to him, these are universal cosmopolitan values that must be protected and disseminated. Held believes that reactions against crimes and terrorism should also be in conformity with these humanitarian principles and states should not act hastily like President Bush did it after 9/11 disaster. These principles should not be used differently from country to country or from time to time in Held’s idea. “But any defensible, justifiable and sustainable response to the 11th September must be consistent with our founding principles and the aspirations of international society for security, law, and the impartial administration of justice - aspirations painfully articulated after the Holocaust and the Second World War – and embedded, albeit imperfectly, in regional and global law and the institutions of global governance”. David Held asserts the language that President Bush used after the 9/11 incident was not in accordance with cosmopolitanism and dividing the world by saying “you are either with us or against us” is a wrong approach for creating a globalized world. He finds this approach “regrettable and, potentially very dangerous”.
Held also believes that politicians and academicians must be careful not to create fear and hatred towards West and Islam but instead should give emphasis to international struggle against terrorism. In Held’s view, President Bush’s approach to the problem is very dangerous because it may create a strict division between Islam and Western countries. Considering the presence of millions of Muslims in the Western world, the problem would become even more important if this understanding prevails over cosmopolitan values. Held’s conceptualization is cosmopolitan because he does not only criticize anti-Western Islamic fanatic discourse but also non-universal policies conducted by President Bush. He opposes to all kinds of divisions and dreams of a united, peaceful world. In order to realize this, he thinks that there are three requirements that must be fully satisfied. First, states must be committed to rule of law not to the prosecution of war. Secondly, Western countries must give up acting self-interestedly and to support anti-democratic, anti-cosmopolitan regimes for economic benefits. Finally, he asserts that enormous economic inequalities caused by the free-market system must be eliminated and states as well as international organizations should take initiatives to solve this problem. In this way, Held clearly differentiates himself from neo liberal tradition and makes a new opening about the globalization issue.
To sum up, Held’s cosmopolitan ideas are also conceptualized in a cosmopolitan manner. First of all, he analyzes developments from a global perspective and does not define nation-states are primary actors of international politics. He thinks that like Kant put forward two centuries ago people and states live side by side and there have always been in interaction. He also reveals that this interaction has been growing enormously in the last decades. Secondly, in his idea increasing universal values are not only Western values. These values should be supported by all cultures and states in his perspective. Thirdly, he opposes to the efforts of creating divisions whether it comes from the east or west. He criticizes Islamic extremist terrorist networks and even advocates the necessity of “zero-tolerance” punishment to these groups but also criticizes President Bush for creating suspect groups and spoiling universalization. Lastly, David Held supports and encourages International War Tribunals’ decisions that charge supranational, humanitarian responsibilities to individuals. He thinks that cosmopolitan values are above national laws and individuals should act in this way. While having this cosmopolitan understanding, Held also admits the wrong approach of Western countries and growing economic inequalities around the world. Unlike neo liberal tradition, he evokes states and international organizations to solve these problems.
- Held, David, “Violence, Law and Justice in a Global Age”, http://www.kyoolee.net/Violence__Law_and_Justice_in_a_Global_Age_-_David_Held.pdf
Ozan Örmeci

27 Kasım 2010 Cumartesi

Geoffrey Galt Harpham's "Symbolic Terror"

Geoffrey Galt Harpham in his article “Symbolic Terror” analyzes the effects of terrorist acts especially that of September 11 (9/11) incident from an ironic and symbolic perspective. In this paper, I am going to explain what Harpham basically talks about in this article and why his writing is symbolic.
Harpham begins his article by differentiating terrorism from trauma. “Terror, I think we must begin by saying, is not a trauma” (Harpham, p. 573). In his idea, terror is different from trauma considering its feature of symbolic order and its difficulty of being understood in a rational manner. So, Harpham explains how and why a tidal wave killing 5000 people is not terror but trauma. He thinks that terror itself may not symbolic but its effects are registered in the symbolic domain. He states that terror affects the symbolic realm in two different ways. First, terrorism changes the current political-military order and leads to something different at least makes people believe that they live in a radically different period because of fear, paranoia and anxiety. Secondly, terrorism by disseminating numerous messages creates a world of symbolic order. Even the recent “anthrax” method of terrorists is a clear example of this symbolic order. Harpham uses a symbolic method and explains terrorism -similar to the nature of its anthrax method- something that can go anywhere like a letter that does not have a destination. “Its delivery system is the very symbol of the symbolic order, the postal service, which faltered through this system, terror can go anywhere at all and can affect or infect anyone along the way before it reaches its addressee, if it ever does” (Harpham, p. 574).
Harpham continues to carry on his ironic, symbolic discourse and shows how terrorism is fed and feeds terrorism again. “And, yet, it seems that we must bomb” he says before explaining how Cold War and imperialism prepared necessary grounds for terrorism (Harpham, p. 574). He shows how people create a new reality by talking about and giving new meanings to terrorism. He asks, “Has terror produced a new reality or disclosed an old one?” (Harpham, p. 575). Harpham also shows how terrorism is used as a pretext by American government to intervene in Iraq by quoting Kenneth Adelman: “I have no evidence that Iraq was involved in nine-eleven, but I feel it” (Harpham, p. 575). In his idea, the reaction of the right wing politics to terrorism is more and more bombs. He continues to write ironically and asserts that conservatives believe that American society is too tolerant and that is why responsible for terrorist acts. The left also sees American policies as the reason of terrorism. Noam Chomsky for instance reveals that 9/11 represents nothing but the “the logical outcome of American policies and actions” (Harpham, p. 577). Harpham explains Chomsky’s views about the mistakes of the Cold War that give birth to terrorism such as USA’s support to Al-Qaeda against USSR in Afghanistan.
I think Harpham’s writing is symbolic and his message lies behind these words. He points out that both leftist and rightist politics try to find an appropriate meaning for terrorism and sees itself responsible for the emergence of these acts. “Right” blames its country for being too tolerant whereas “left” blames its country for making political mistakes and supporting terrorism in the past. However, Harpham’s point is different. He thinks that terrorism is accepted as a radical phenomenon because people give these meanings as well as ideologies. People try to understand and rationalize terrorism but in his view terrorism is not rational. He thinks that the basic symptom of terrorism is to “paralyze the inability to determine whether we have entered onto a new reality or are merely confronting for the first time the reality we have been living all along” (Harpham, p. 578). By using a quotation from Joseph Conrad’s “Nostromo” he points out how we try to materialize and rationalize events and people derived from immaterial interests. At the end of his article, Geoffrey Galt Harpham explains how terrorism is evolved from our horrors and hidden intentions. Behind his symbolic writing, there appears a message: we strengthen the specter of terrorism…
- Harpham, Geoffrey Galt, “Symbolic Terrorism”, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1344283

Ozan Örmeci