Monday, December 7, 2015

Justice & Terror

And you are so far off about the just and justice, and the unjust and injustice, that you are unaware that justice and the just are really someone else's good, the advantage of the man who is stronger and rules, and a personal harm to the man who obeys and serves. Injustice is the opposite, and it rules the truly simple and just; and those who are ruled do what is advantageous for him who is stronger, and they make him whom they serve happy but themselves not at all. And this must be considered, most simple Socrates: the just man everywhere has less than the unjust man.
- "Justice is someone else's good."  Totalitarian societies maintain themselves not directly by propaganda, or threat of violence, but by substitution of a conception of justice that is in the interest of the stronger for a conception of justice that is held by the simple. The quote is from Plato's Republic, in which a picture in words is made of what a just society would look like. Models of society that can be put into words are learned in childhood unconsciously; we are instructed by rewards and punishments of our parents and the society at large. The rules we learn exist buried in the unconscious. Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, found in studying how children learn about the world - as opposed to learn about imitations of the world people make - that the structure, the permanence of their knowledge was not to be found in their minds, neither buried in their unconscious or conscious, but in the history of their acquiring bodily habits of perception, moving their eyes across the world and body through the world. Their knowledge of the world exists in their individual experience, which is the story of acquiring new habits of perception. It is not a picture of the world. As knowledge of the world exists only in habits of the body, that leaves the mind free to play, try out new possibilities; the habits of the body are the foundation, not limitation or enclosing frame, to future perception and knowledge. Learning that if I can see you, you can see me, does not enclose future action like rules given by a model, but enlarges possibility: you can do more with a person whose world you can imagine than one whose world is invisible to you.
- My perception still needs educating. Guide my eyes and body through the world. Give me a real life example.
- This year two intellectuals carried on a correspondence, later published*, on the question whether the United States was as murderous as the terrorists who are against its policies. The conservative argued that the US in its drone campaign and other acts of war did not deliberately kill civilians, but the terrorists did. The liberal argued that the US, with a minimum of thought, could see that civilian deaths were the inevitable consequence of its policies. The conservative countered with the argument that if the US could have avoided killing civilians it would have. The debate ended there, but a different kind of answer could be made. Both sides accepted killing unexamined. Deaths were for both of them instrumental to construction of a model state describable in words, for the terrorists the Islamic state, for the Americans, the state of unending production in free markets.
- The state conceived of in words, the imitation state, whether free market or Islamic, substitutes a false sense of justice, the justice of the stronger, one conception of the world imposed on another, for justice as development of habits. False justice: holding a model of state in mind, with an individual's life or death merely instrumental to its construction.

Further Reading:
Poetry Of No Compassion
* Harris - Chomsky Correspondence, 2015