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The Western notion of justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness.

There is no way to equally judge another human being or bring back what the violation has caused equally. The attempt will lead to mistakes and cruelty. More insidious is the notion someone can bring justice. I bring this up because the smart men and women I know (asked 40) all agreed this is why they still believe in the religion they believe in. Some cited fear of death as number 2 but all said they believe there has to be justice  from higher power ultimatey. And that this is the only solace they have in this world. They believe someone who took so much life, like a Dahmer, would have to be judged by something eternal. I said someone in war may take 100's of lives but this is judged justice because they did it under orders or for a "just" cause.

Justice does seem to be hard wired instinctual.Most social mammals show different degrees of abhorrents to inequality.Especially primates.

But essentially isn't the pursuit of real justice not possible? Calling it necessary means this will make those who deem the power to wield it, to better humanity, unjust from the beginning? Isn't justice another way of claiming superiority? Doesn't a despot in the world use it to claim there power? If we agree justice is not a noble pursuit and clearly impossible (like following the word of god), what laws or punishments should be changed or updated? How would you feel if a mass murder or child molester was treated with a kind hand, rather than the visceral feeling of gutting them like a pig and dancing in the entrails as they slowing die. I am the first to admit this sounds more like justice at a primal level. But should we be smarter than that?

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I don't think justice in itself is hardwired, the thirst for revenge is.

Punitive justice is, as K0rsan says, thirst for revenge.  At its simplest level, it is the assertion that two wrongs somehow cancel each other out to make a right.  I punch you, so you punch me and everything is now resolved.

Restorative justice is more along the lines of making restitution, so the repayment of stolen money is the simplest example, whether that is contributed materially or by restorative labour.

Religion can only deal with punitive justice if it is to be in the "afterlife" as it is too late to apply restorative justice if the perpetrator is already dead (or floating around in the afterlife area).

Restorative justice is not always achievable, simple example being murder.

Justice itself is based on the assertion that life should be fair.  Is life naturally fair?  No.  So we seek with justice to create an artificial situation of fairness, that probably isn't tenable as it is not actually feasible to create an objective definition of fairness itself.

Empathy normally develops at an early age. When kittens or kids play, they learn with immediate feedback when something they did caused pain, or when they can get away with things with certain other beings.

Play and other spontaneous behavior is not so linked to inter-personal encouragement or discouragement, now that we enculturate in a less group-managed environment (e.g. band or tribe), with tight relationships to one another. Bad behavior has less consequences at an immediate, social level in larger societies, and therefore more cognitively-based codes of behavior (e.g. "I should or shouldn't be doing this...") have to intervene, especially for humans who have typically been successfully resistant to social interaction, or psychopathic to a degree. This kind of social isolation and independence couldn't happen back in our band/tribal days, where often everything one did or didn't do had immediate recognition and (sometimes mortal) consequences from a range of social associates, from peers, to elders, and especially one's family who had even more, tribe-tied responsibility or shame to get their kin to conform.

We just assume that all our philosophies, religions, justice systems, social behaviors and so on are what humans "naturally" excel at, and that's what makes us different from other animals. When enculturated with customs over thousands of years, such cognitive, social consciousness takes the place of the more spontaneous, immediate social feedback we originally evolved with. We're now forced to deal with social interactions and consequences at a more abstract but formal level, in words, and now written down on paper in books... which also hardly existed only a few thousand years ago. Interactions and consequences have to be conducted now at less perfect institutional levels rather than at face-to-face levels, and these can become a huge burden at times, for several parties.

Damn, outta time to finish thoughts, but these ideas might sound too abstract or irrelevant, anyway? My main point would be that artificially constructed codes of behavior and consequences that "modern" society requires do not come perfectly and naturally, at isolated, institutional levels. Whenever justice is necessary to maintain order and security (how many people actually advocate for total anarchy?), we're constantly fighting against artificial processes, impersonalization, and errors in the system.

(I'm re-editing this a lot more than expected. Are you guys getting multiple copies of this writing, as I edit?)

I would at least like to add, however, that I think that the above also explains to a large extent the success of religion. Now that we've culturally evolved enough to learn the potential harm in various forms of "group-think", religions are outmoded. But back when we needed culture to appreciate cognitively expressed codes of behavior, god and church served an efficient way to add social controls, for better or worse, but possibly for the better, back in pre-scientific times.

I think this is a good explanation of cognitive understanding per social norms what justice is about and I appreciate that but what is it really good for? like kOrson are we really more hardwired for revenge or as strega puts it punitive justice or is there a different more natural response to justice that may be a path to least resistance? Are we really doomed to needing it written out to litigate something like murder?

Left without religious dogma and a higher power for ultimate judgement would stega's point of restorative justice be an easier path?  I do not believe kOrsons point that revenge is more natural either because both puntive and restorative are more about power than justice. I honestly think Pope your on the right path. It isn't anarchy its trust and love. Please don't raise up the hippy flag on me this is really calling things what they are, people are ill. if they carry out acts that harm other people mentally or physically they are ill. If I am not trying to make you as successful as I am, or at least ignoring your life, I have a bad pattern of thinking. Not that I need medication, because we all have the thoughts of murdering someone who hurts us, or envy, but to act on that trigger is the same as a manic episode where we have trouble with our impulse control. when I think of my kids doing bad things I automatically think its my fault and discuss with them why they did such and such. I get a lot of I don't knows and so on but ultimately that is the right answer.I don;t know why at the time now its clear I shouldn't have.

They don't know why and without being told its ok everyone thinks those things, but they feel like they are the only ones so hiding it the temptation becomes too much. Kind of like priests in the catholic church.But if we love everyone like we love our kids maybe we can teach trigger point therapy to rapists and murders. Just the thought makes me sound soft on crime or not understanding of the effects of crime on others.Immediately that sounds like I am letting them get away with murder literally.

Theft is different too me. some can turn into the same problem above but a lot has to do with a living wage. They are just surviving.

 Justice is in the mind of the beholder.  Everyone has an idiosyncratic concept of what is "just." 

Yep totally agree and the point I make very much less worded but more to the point thank you:) What is justice good for? Nothing...

The law was invented to circumvent revenge.

The laws are set up to allow revenge.They institutionalize revenge. And now with private prisons they make people rich from taking out their revenge successfully and in so doing perpetuate the institution.

Justice as an ideal serves the purpose of deterrence, punishment, recompense, and separation. Note that the ideal of justice is distinct from the American system of justice, which is far from ideal and deeply flawed.

By deterrence, I mean the potential of being caught and punished prevents some crimes from being committed.

By punishment, I mean perpetrators of some crimes suffer some form of loss or unpleasantness (such as paying a fine or being incarcerated) as a result of committing the crimes.

By recompense, I mean some amends are made to the crime victim, preferably at the expense of the perpetrator of the crime.

By separation, I mean dangerous criminals are kept away from society to prevent them from committing more crimes. 

I really do think justice is a noble pursuit, maybe the most noble of all pursuits, in addition to being one of the most elusive. How do you enact justice effectively and fairly? Does anyone really know? Yet, without the order that results from justice, could large societies even function at all?

Interesting topic, Mat.

Thanks Gallup this topic is been my obsession for almost a year now. Yes this is how we think justice should be, yes your are right this is how it isn't in american or really anywhere in the world. I just want to be thorough in my response. These are almost verbatim my position on justice and the point at which I realized this is not justice.

By deterrence, I mean the potential of being caught and punished prevents some crimes from being committed.

If this prevents crime from being committed the law must makes sense. But even when the law makes sense it is disobeyed. That is the part that is illness. No one in their right chemical balance and who are able to feed, clothe, and house themselves and family safely would disobey a law that is in their and everyone's best interest.

By punishment, I mean perpetrators of some crimes suffer some form of loss or unpleasantness (such as paying a fine or being incarcerated) as a result of committing the crimes.

This is where revenge is institutionalized. Civil courts are going to need to settle disputes  recourse must already be available at a civil level to go forward.  Whether the criminal is proven innocent or guilty. This is already the case in some instances but it always the well off who use it, which is not fairly distributed because you are given a court appointed attorney to sue someone. Yes fair access no matter what income level is mandatory for fair laws to exist.

By recompense, I mean some amends are made to the crime victim, preferably at the expense of the perpetrator of the crime.

You can't sue someone who is not in their right mind. this is punitive and therefore revenge. This is not justice.

By separation, I mean dangerous criminals are kept away from society to prevent them from committing more crimes.

Criminals are mentally ill. Recidivation rates on all crimes attest to this. If the law is understandable and created with the same access to question it's fairness then it is not in the persons right mind that they committed the act and they need treatment.

More crime does not mean more mentally ill it could be the laws are not fair or even understood. We do have to treat people like adults and explain the laws to them from time to time. No one in their right mind would disobey a fair and understood law.

Thanks for finding this interesting, There are more layers to this topic than my mind can handle. If just is what you say it is then its is not worth pursuing at all because it unfairly places the burden on those least to understand it or able to follow when its laws. You can give me any crime by anyone and using a scientific method you can deduce the moral reality and come to determine whether they are guilty or innocent and then if guilty why. but the question isn't just are the ill as I make it sound, its whther how old they are, their background, the situation at hand, then the motive, finally the laws fairness itself. The rest is even longer, about questioning the law itself. is the hypothesis we all need to either prove or debunk.

I worked briefly as a correctional officer in a state prison.

It was a terrible experience. It is dehumanizing for the inmates and the guards.

I dont know if justice was being served but I can say with 100% certainty I am glad some of those people were locked up. Although personally I would prefer death to counting down the days of my wasted life.

Part of our training was learning the history of the prison system, which began as a way for the south to reclaim freed slaves.

I think that sums it all up. At least for me.

But I do not have a better answer to this dilemma.

It's natural to want to make sense of things. It doesn't seem sensible that people should do wrong and receive the same treatment as someone who does right. It goes to an instantly understood primitive concept: deserts, as in "just deserts." Giving people what they deserve.

Trying to make things right is natural. Calling giving people what they deserve "revenge" is to apply a non-neutral term to something which is actually necessary. It's necessary not to stand around doing nothing when some sort of crime has been done. Various ways exist to describe everything.

For example, the word "porn" is a negative way to describe erotica. Likewise, "revenge" can be a negative way to describe an act of justice.

Call it revenge or call it justice, but don't criticize it unless you have a credible alternative.

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