Thursday, January 12, 2017

Justice and the afterlife

  1. If there is no afterlife, then promoting justice sometimes requires acting unjustly.

  2. Promoting justice never requires acting unjustly.

  3. So, there is an afterlife.

In support of 1, just think of cases where it looks like great injustices can only be stopped by minor injustices. Perhaps the only way to get an unjust dictator out of power is to spread the rumor that he is unfaithful to his wife. Perhaps the only way to bust a criminal organization is to have an informer make false promises. Of course, these cases presume that this life is all there is. If there is an afterlife, perhaps things are so arranged that all wrongs are righted in some way, so on the whole all will have justice. But without an afterlife, these cases are very compelling.

I think the weakness here is the "requires". There is a normative and a non-normative sense of "requires". Justice non-normatively requires A provided that justice cannot be had without A. Justice normatively requires A provided that in light of justice we are morally required to provide A. My line of thought above established claim 1 in the non-normative sense of requiring, whereas claim 2 is most plausible only in the normative sense of requiring.

Maybe. But I still think that 1 also has some plausibility with the normative sense of "requires" and 2 has some plausibility with the non-normative sense, so the argument as a whole has plausibility when "requires" is read consistently. The argument raises the probability of the conclusion. By how much, I do not know.

4 comments:

Jo F said...

"Promoting justice never requires acting unjustly."

I don't think "promote" is the right word here, as opposed to "fulfilled". One could promote justice by doing evil and injustice. (i.e. I could derive the financial resources for anti-child-abuse commercial adds through the enslavement of children).

Also, the argument might be circular if I'm right in my initial recognition that premise 2 would have to presuppose the truth of the conclusion in order to be meaningful for that conclusion. Stating that "Promoting justice never requires acting unjustly"--even if you mean that the fulfillment of justice never requires acting unjustly--incurs an enormous burden of proof entailing that we identify all instances where the promotion of justice does not require unjust actions in order to accept this argument with warrant.

Jo F said...

"One could promote justice by doing evil and injustice. (i.e. I could derive the financial resources for anti-child-abuse commercial adds through the enslavement of children)."

I should correct myself: this example I gave has nothing to do with there being a requirement for injustice to be done for justice to be accomplished.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Read non-normatively across the board, (1) is saying that, in pursuing the goal of justice, one may (as a matter of pratical necessity) have to resort to unjust means; (2) is saying that it is never the case that in the promotion of justice requires unjust means.... I think (2) is very weak, read this way.

I'm not sure that I understand (1) in the normative sense....

Heath White said...

Another way to deny (1) (I think) is to believe the law of karma. No matter if some great evil looks like injustice, really it is retributive punishment for some evil that the putative victim perpetrated in a past life.