Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Of good virtue, Aristotle and Rawls

Today I write after a long time. Today I write about something I love explaining something I hate.

To begin with, this shall not be a long post though, only thoughtful. I deal with two great jurists today – John Rawls and the mighty Aristotle.

As Rawls has envisioned a society from the egalitarian perspective, and stated that no one should get the advantage of the inherent ‘unfairness’ nature provides them with, i.e. the edge of extra intelligence, beauty etc. over other less-fortuned ones, he has earned many praises and criticisms. Let us first see why he has earned the praise from me. To start with, man inherently wants all of us to be the same. Performing better than others seldom earns you praise, while it does earn you lots of jealousy and ill-wish (more on what Aristotle said on this later). This is not the absolute generalization though – more of a special case – the mediocre society. In a society where there is hardly any disparity to begin with, there is less scope of ‘breaking free’ from the norms. To not conform to mediocrity is a sin. The fact that being ‘better’ never earns goodwill is more suitable with Rawls’ theory, who then solves the problem by his egalitarian concept and the difference principle in his Justice as Fairness.

Shifting our focus to Aristotle now, we get to see why such a society hinders progress, and is more often than not, inherently wrong. Aristotle says justice is ‘what we deserve’. To honour good virtues is the norm. From this perspective, is the Rawls’ society ‘just’ per se? Well, I don’t think so. I’ll spare you the horror of further diving into teleological reasoning, but a society which does not honour good virtue and talent is more machine than human, it has no more heart than a piece of rock by the ocean has, it has no more feelings than the fox hunting the deer. Competitiveness in a meritocracy is okay, but legitimate expectations of mediocrity is not. The shift from Aristotle towards rights-based theories have never been better. There is nothing pro-human than Aristotle’s theory, and well, I accept ‘justice is what you deserve’ has its own faults and practical implications and is more idealism than realism. It comes into the category of legal romanticism because it was made to do so – Aristotle’s ideal is, in most aspects, better than John Rawl’s ideal.

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