Socrates via Plato used a lot of ink when writing about the meaning of what translators call “justice”. It’s fun to read. And it might actually take that much ink to make the point. But this post will take a stab at summarizing him.
In short, the whole “social justice”, “racial justice”, “economic justice” scene could be silenced by swapping out the word “justice” for a word which means what Socrates and Plato were talking about. To be clear, “justice” is a fairly empty word. I agree that something needs attention right now, but the word “justice” is impotent and distracting.
Q: What word would help our current political dialogue resolve itself and captures the content Socrates and Plato provided?
Change “we need social justice” to “we need social alignment” and now the conversation moves places.
Change “there needs to be racial justice” to “there needs to be racial alignment” and now the discussion gets interesting.
Change “don’t stop until we get economic justice” to “don’t stop until we get economic alignment” and now the debate is over.
As it stands, you (even me) are being baited by calls for justice. That is all. Until we get specific with the language, the powerful speakers are laughing at their easy use of the non-specific language of “justice” (itself deriving its supposed moral power from the Bible’s sometimes use) to cause confusion and grab more power, all while we’re debating the volume of emptiness.
You say you want justice. How about alignment? Do you want social alignment, racial alignment, and economic alignment?
I’m not asking you to decide if my understanding of Socrates is correct. I’m asking you to clarify for me what you mean. Can you? Do you even know what you mean?
The last time he unquestionably believed something because of the proponent’s position in society he was a child. This is not because he thought position, rank and/or authority were easily gained, but because he wanted to keep ever sharp his ability to think for himself.
And because there is that point, increasingly difficult to identify over time, when trust becomes foolishness–itself only a few steps away from danger.