Monday, 25 February 2013

Understandings of justice



Understandings of justice differ in every culture, as cultures are usually dependent upon a shared history, mythology and/or religion. Each culture's ethics create values which influence the notion of justice. Although there can be found some justice principles that are one and the same in all or most of the cultures, these are insufficient to create a unitary justice apprehension.

Justice as harmony: In his dialogue Republic, Plato uses Socrates to argue for justice that covers both the just person and the just City State. Justice is a proper, harmonious relationship between the warring parts of the person or city. Hence Plato's definition of justice is that justice is the having and doing of what is one's own. A just man is a man in just the right place, doing his best and giving the precise equivalent of what he has received. This applies both at the individual level and at the universal level. 

A person's soul has three parts – reason, spirit and desire. Similarly, a city has three parts – Socrates uses the parable of the chariot to illustrate his point: a chariot works as a whole because the two horses’ power is directed by the charioteer. Lovers of wisdom – philosophers, in one sense of the term – should rule because only they understand what is good. If one is ill, one goes to a doctor rather than a psychologist, because the doctor is expert in the subject of health. Similarly, one should trust one's city to an expert in the subject of the good, not to a mere politician who tries to gain power by giving people what they want, rather than what's good for them. 

Socrates uses the parable of the ship to illustrate this point: the unjust city is like a ship in open ocean, crewed by a powerful but drunken captain (the common people), a group of untrustworthy advisors who try to manipulate the captain into giving them power over the ship's course (the politicians), and a navigator (the philosopher) who is the only one who knows how to get the ship to port. For Socrates, the only way the ship will reach its destination – the good – is if the navigator takes charge.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Justice

According to most contemporary theories of justice, justice is overwhelmingly important: John Rawls claims that Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity, or compassion. Justice has traditionally been associated with concepts of fate, reincarnation or Divine Providence, i.e. with a life in accordance with the cosmic plan. The association of justice with fairness has thus been historically and culturally rare and is perhaps chiefly a modern innovation.

Studies at UCLA in 2008 have indicated that reactions to fairness are "wired" into the brain and that, "Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats... This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need". Research conducted in 2003 at Emory University, Georgia, USA, involving Capuchin Monkeys demonstrated that other cooperative animals also possess such a sense and that "inequity aversion may not be uniquely human" indicating that ideas of fairness and justice may be instinctual in nature.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Will work for justice… and honey


The coming of spring means I’ve started to work my bees again after avoiding them all winter.  The hives were a birthday present the year I turned 24, and I’ve carted them around almost everywhere I’ve lived since then.  This means they’ve spent most of their time in various hippie-towns of Northern California – Bolinas, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Pescadero, with a few years expanding their horizons in the suburbs as well.

My  social science roots show in my almost complete lack of knowledge about actual bee biology.  I know enough about the fundamentals to get the honey, but not much more.  The people I help get started in beekeeping very quickly surpass me in their knowledge of bee breeds, hive behavior, and colony collapse disorder.  BUT, I’m dying to read social geographer Jake Kosek’s next book.  Anyone who hears his talk “The Militarization of the Honeybee” can never look at bees the same way again.  I just hope mine aren’t spying on me yet.

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Ken Duckert hosted my bees in his backyard until recently, and used his intimate acquaintance with them to build up this lovely collection of “bee potraits” of my fuzzy friends.  I’ve also put together a few photos of my own below.