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    fated loafer
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    justice

    In Classical Greece the word dike meant justice, vengeance, and legal process or order. One of their greatest fears was that of a chaos in which every action would have no control, a world of vengeance, in the modern sense. So they had divine law to install standards of legal process. But how did they differenetiat between these three definitions of justice? I think they had just as much trouble as people do today, beucause all the the Greek tragedies are about people who are commiting actions they think are just but in actuality are not. I think Cicero said, "An unjust peace is better than a just war". Is it possible for there to be an unjust peace? Is justice an obligation or inherently good? For that matter what exactly is justice? And is it better to be just or unjust? Plato thinks it is better to be unjust because it is more important to look out for yourself and benefits for you first. Why is it then that most people see justice as a burden, or an enactment of fairness in which they don't really want to take part but think they must?

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    dancing before the storms baddad's Avatar
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    Is a democracy really an unjust peacful society? No society has true equality, or at least no attempt at this equilibrium has yet to prove fruitful. But by and large democratic societies are peaceful. But I think justice in a pure sense is unattainable. The legal profession would have us believe that justice exists, but of course the system is flawed, manipulate-able, and often guided by the wants of the elite, though justice is claimed in its ideal to be 'blind'. Cicero of course, may have been talking about peace between countries and not within a society, and truthfully I am not familiar with the context of the quote used in the post above. But IMHO true justice is still quite elusive.....

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    L'artiste est morte crisaor's Avatar
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    Good questions simon. And I fear to say, I'm sure they are far more interesting and thought provoking that the 'answers' I can give you. But heyÖ

    For starters, I don't think they diferentiatted those kinds of justice. They had several deities/entities that passed some sort of justice. Zeus was judge among gods (and in extent, of humanity, but he himself was also bound by rules, rules he didn't care much for); so was Nemesis, who carried out the revenge of the gods against evildoers; the Fates, who judged the extent of life for each person; the Furies, who also passed judgements (and carried out the sentence), specially in blood (as in family) crimes; Temis, gooddes of divine justice and mother of the Fates; the three judges of the underworld: Radamanthis, Aeacus, and Minos, who passed judgements to the entering souls, etc.

    I think that the examples above are not merely amusing stories, but a reflection of what the greeks felt about justice, both human and divine, otherwordly. So, IMO, the subject was open to debate, as it relied on more than one individual and was possessed of many sides to it.

    Is justice an obligation or inherently good? I'd have to say that sometimes both, and sometimes only one. For example, Orestes killed his own mother, Clitemnestra, in order to avenge his father, Agamemnon, whom she had conspired to kill in cohort with her lover. It was his duty as a son to avenge him, and in some sources, it was Apollo himself who ordered him to kill his mother. Orestes complied, and so the Furies were set on him, and he was forced to roam the world to escape them, until Athena interceded and plead to the Furies to forgive Orestes, which they did, and so became the Eumenides ("protectors of the suplicants") everafter. In this case, Orestes was bound by law to avenge his father's dead, but as he spilled family blood, so were the Furies to punish him. It wasn't in their previous nature to hear pleas or mitigating circumstances, so justice is met with some contradictions: why would they chase him if he was serving justice? And how could he be serving justice by commiting another crime? Perhaps I'm being too mythical here, sorry. I'll try a more concrete approach. From personal experience, I feel that justice is an obligation to any society, there just can't exist a contract between men if there isn't justice. But, justice shouldn't be blind (in the sense of ignoring all the things that must be taken into consideration) and be passed as it were a mechanical thing, it should be tempered by wisdom. As we all know, this kind of things seldom occurr, but I think it's the sort of thing we should look forward to.

    Why is it then that most people see justice as a burden, or an enactment of fairness in which they don't really want to take part but think they must?
    Because most of the times, it prevents them from doing things they might feel inclined to (e.g. minor theft) and which they believe would be relatively easy to get away with otherwise, but everyone understands (or not, but is compelled to act as if that were the case) that if there wasn't such a restriction, chaos would erupt, and ultimately everyone would be adversely affected. Personally, I believe a society is much more developed when its members have an innate sense of justice, of fairness, rather than a fear/respect for the application of the law. But this is hardly the case.
    Ningķn hombre llega a ser lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que lee.
    - Jorge Luis Borges

  4. #4
    fated loafer
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    Well the Oresteia was written by Aeschylus, but Sophocles also wrote a version of the Agamemnon called the Electra, as did Euripides. Sophocles makes no mention of the furies though, only Aeschylus and Euripides do (this is probably due to poetic license since he was also the first to make Oedipus gouge out his eyes). But it is arguable that the characters themselves are furies, that Electra, Klytaimnestra and Aegisthus are the furies for they each seek a goal with unworthy passion. Electra her mothers death, Klytaimnestra her husbands death, and Aegisthus control of Thebes. Justice according to each author I think is different. But I still think that their idea of justice was convoluted. Notice how Klytaimnestra killing Agamemnon for the death of her daughter Iphegenia is vengeance, but Orestes killing his mother for killing his father is justice. How can this be? Both are due to a previous killing of a kin member? I suppose the logical answer is that to kill a man is worse than to kill a woman in Classical Greece.
    But importantly, no matter if an act is vengefull or just there will be some type of punishment or retribution. If both could lead to the anguish then why would anyone consider even acting justly? Could it be better to remain unjust? Plato thinks so, he has this example the Gyges ring where a man finds a ring and when he turns it toward the inside of his finger he becomes invisible and he uses it to seduce the kings wife and then kill the king. And Plato says that that is unjust but benefical. Each person is following their own individual desires. So if justice is a burden and the unjust act is often beneficial I still don't understand why we have this desire to be just? Even if you take away all the laws we would make new ones that would establish some type of justice, is it needed that badly in society?
    Last edited by simon; 04-01-2005 at 12:40 PM.

  5. #5
    L'artiste est morte crisaor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simon
    Notice how Klytaimnestra killing Agamemnon for the death of her daughter Iphegenia is vengeance, but Orestes killing his mother for killing his father is justice. How can this be? Both are due to a previous killing of a kin member? I suppose the logical answer is that to kill a man is worse than to kill a woman in Classical Greece.
    Perhaps. But keep in mind that Agamemnon sacrified Iphigenia because Artemis demanded so in order to let the greek navy continue their journey, and in some sources, it is said that Artemis removed her from the altar of sacrifice (or pyre, or whatever) saving her from death and afterwards Iphigenia became a priestess of Artemis. So, in this case, the difference would be that there was no killing on Agamemnon's part. Still, your suggestion certainly holds its ground.
    Quote Originally Posted by simon
    So if justice is a burden and the unjust act is often beneficial I still don't understand why we have this desire to be just? Even if you take away all the laws we would make new ones that would establish some type of justice, is it needed that badly in society?
    It's only beneficial in the short run. Just as you can kill and rob someone, there's a lot of people that can do that to you. And it's not a matter of force either, when unjustice reigns, chaos erupts, and no one can cover their backs. Unjustice pays only as long as you're unjust and the rest of society isn't (and providing you don't get caught, of course). It's another one of those situation in what is supposed to be good (as in beneficial) for an individual, turns out to be damaging to society, which in turn, results in bad things for that individual. So, in the balance, it turns out to be a bad choice. Did that make sense?
    Ningķn hombre llega a ser lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que lee.
    - Jorge Luis Borges

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    precious... subterranean's Avatar
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    Apologize for interupting you both, the Greek experts of the forum.

    Here's what I've read about justice and its relation with classical Greece. I notice that there are two terms in Greek related to Justice. One is Themis, which means a consort of Zeus, and the other is Dike, which means a daughter. Themis might be defined as the personification of rational thought or as self-inherent righteousness. Now, this is the part that t I don't really get, I mean was Zeus really a rational being or righteous??? I dont think so. And further, this term is analogous to the idea of justice.
    On the other hand, Dike was the personification of punishment, or the decision of a judge, and was applied to relations among persons. This one is analogous to the ideal of justice. For instance Aristotle's ideas of distinctions between retributive and distributive justice might be derrived from this term, or Aeschylus' plays about men being puppet with minor free-will and Zeus was the punisher for all men's evil deeds.

    Also, Aristotle mentioned 3 types of persons which he considered as acting justly: (a) the legislator or statesman who rewards; (b) the judge who decides; and (c) the farmer or entrepeneur who exchanges goods and services (???? I have no idea how on earth this can be included).

    I think besides the old Greeks, we can also mentioned some of names which related to old ideas of justice, like the Hammurabi's code or the Romans' definition of natural justice, who believed that some legal principles were "natural" or self-evident and did not require a statutory basis.


    "there are people in the world so hungry that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread"

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  7. #7
    L'artiste est morte crisaor's Avatar
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    There's no need to apologize, of course.
    Quote Originally Posted by subterranean
    Themis might be defined as the personification of rational thought or as self-inherent righteousness. Now, this is the part that t I don't really get, I mean was Zeus really a rational being or righteous??? I dont think so. And further, this term is analogous to the idea of justice.
    The word Themis, in greek, can be understood as what you said, however, she wasn't a mere personification, she was a person (and I'm aware of her divine essence, IMO, practically all of the greek gods behaved as regular people). Implicating that Zeus' lovers reflected a part of his personality is interesting, but even if that was the case, she was but one of his many aspects, and thus, incapable of solely defining Zeus' essence. However, we could glance at what could be the results of mixing self righteousness with power, if we look at their offspring. Perhaps that is one of the most entertaining aspects, to see how the greeks viewed the interactions between equals and opposites, and the consequences that might erupt from those relationships.
    Ningķn hombre llega a ser lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que lee.
    - Jorge Luis Borges

  8. #8
    fated loafer
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    Ahh Crisaor I forgot about Artemis. Even though she asked for the sacrifice she didn't really want her to be sacrificed, it was a test of Agamemnon's will was it not? I think the evidence of this is in the fact that no god or godess can accept a human sacrifice. To eat the flesh of humans is considered a crime, and by accepting the sacrifice she would be polluting herself. So she changed Iphigenia in to a deer and as you said maybe she beccame a preistess.

    It is interesting to note that there seems to be large distinction between male and female and justice and vengeance. The women in Classical greece seem to be the doers of vengeance and polluted and corrupt acts in which they are acting inappropriatly, while the men eventually commit just acts. I wonder of Agamemnon himself was really unjust? Did he not feel horrible about killing his daughter, he didn't actually kill her himself in Eupripides' Iphigenia at Aulis, but I think in other versions he does. Does a person who commits a just act an evil and unjust person on the whole or the other way around for that matter. Is a jsut person that commits an unjust act an unjust person or are we allowed a few transgressions before we sway wholly to the dark side?

    As for the justice of the Romans Subterranean, I think it was a political justice. One based on the manipulation of the people. Afterall Cicero the great orator spoke in defence of persons before a jury, but the person was convicted not on relevant evidence proving them guilty or not, but on wether or not his defender was a good speaker. So that is a justice that has been misconstrued.

    And also justice in relation to Zeus' dominion over all seems to be the most forcefull type of justice. Divine law overrules all other laws of humankind. So what they say must be obeyed, perhaps that was why Agamemnon feared not sacrificing his daughter. Which would then not make sense why Artemis suggested it in the first place since it would also be bad for him to go against her wishes. Is this not a bit like the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Bible?

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    precious... subterranean's Avatar
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    Well Abram and Isaac story is about faith and trust, the story may be similiar but IMO there's unlikely any essence of justice in that story.


    "there are people in the world so hungry that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread"

    Mahatma Gandhi

  10. #10
    L'artiste est morte crisaor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simon
    Does a person who commits a just act an evil and unjust person on the whole or the other way around for that matter. Is a jsut person that commits an unjust act an unjust person or are we allowed a few transgressions before we sway wholly to the dark side?
    You got me a little lost there, to tell you the truth. From what I understand you're asking, a single just/unjust act may or may not determine the nature of a person, it all depends on that particular act, and the general conduct of that particular individual. No one is perfect, everyone gets a few shots at things. However, people of the like of Ixion and Procrustes usually don't get second chances. Anyway, in greek mythology, I would say that everything is debatable, practically all things can be redeemed, provided you got the right connection (Heracles comes to mind, for example).
    Quote Originally Posted by simon
    And also justice in relation to Zeus' dominion over all seems to be the most forcefull type of justice. Divine law overrules all other laws of humankind. So what they say must be obeyed, perhaps that was why Agamemnon feared not sacrificing his daughter. Which would then not make sense why Artemis suggested it in the first place since it would also be bad for him to go against her wishes. Is this not a bit like the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Bible?
    I wouldn't go that far. Artemis was simply angered at Agamemnon because he had killed a stag in one of her sacred groves, it wasn't a matter of testing his faith or anything of that like. Even so, I agree with Subterranean, the story of abraham and Isaac lacks any essence of justice.
    Ningķn hombre llega a ser lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que lee.
    - Jorge Luis Borges

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    precious... subterranean's Avatar
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    Regarding Artemis, Niobe, queen of Thebes, once boasted that she was better than Leto (mother of Artemis), because she had many children while the goddess had but two. Artemis and Apollo avenged this insult by killing all or most of Niobe's children with their arrows. The weeping Niobe was transformed into stone, in which form she continued to weep.

    Can this be considered as justice??



    Quote Originally Posted by simon
    Ahh Crisaor I forgot about Artemis. Even though she asked for the sacrifice she didn't really want her to be sacrificed, it was a test of Agamemnon's will was it not? I think the evidence of this is in the fact that no god or godess can accept a human sacrifice. To eat the flesh of humans is considered a crime, and by accepting the sacrifice she would be polluting herself. So she changed Iphigenia in to a deer and as you said maybe she beccame a preistess.


    "there are people in the world so hungry that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread"

    Mahatma Gandhi

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    To define justice depends apon the culture you are living in. For instance if a person was caught stealing, he could have his hands chopped off. If someone was found in a place where they were not suppose to be, they could be killed. One culture may find this type of punishment acceptable for the crime committed and look at it as justice served. Another culture may fine this type of justice abit extreme.

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    fated loafer
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    Well Sub, the gods would certainly think it was just to punish Niobe in such a fashion, whereas now I don't think it would be seen as just, I hope not at least. That is one person's kind of justice. The same with g0987's example of getting your hands chopped off. It seems like a personal vindette being carried out, where personal views of "justice" are conflicting. Obviously the person loosing thier hands or being turned into a rock does not think this is justice but cruel vengeance. The court systems and the idea of a jury are designed to overthrow personal justice diatribes, but not all governments use it. If a governemnt has a dictatorship where one person or an oligarchy are ruling they can define justice as they wish. Maybe it is a s sign of a cultures advancement when they move from barbaric acts to those at least attempting fariness. But then look at the states, they have a court system suposedly based on justice and look what they get away with.

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    L'artiste est morte crisaor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subterranean
    Regarding Artemis, Niobe, queen of Thebes, once boasted that she was better than Leto (mother of Artemis), because she had many children while the goddess had but two. Artemis and Apollo avenged this insult by killing all or most of Niobe's children with their arrows. The weeping Niobe was transformed into stone, in which form she continued to weep.
    Can this be considered as justice??
    Not in our terms, no. But, remember that in greek mythology, the worst sin of all, and I do mean the worst, was pride, in excesive quantities. For a human to believe himself as equal as any one of the gods, was the most unforgivable thing to do. There could be no pardon. Murder was a minor offense compared to it. Also, it serves as a reminder of the nature of the greek gods, who possessed the same emotional traits that mortals had.
    Ningķn hombre llega a ser lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que lee.
    - Jorge Luis Borges

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    precious... subterranean's Avatar
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    That sounds like the story in Christian religion. God sent Lucifer away coz the angel boasted that he can be like God, or perhaps even better. Well Lucifer is not human, but the pattern still similiar..

    IMO the kind of punishment given are often much painfull than death it self, like what happened to Tantalus who offended the gods. He was condemned in Tartarus to eternal hunger and thirst, with water and fruit always just out of reach.

    Posted by q0 : To define justice depends apon the culture you are living in. For instance if a person was caught stealing, he could have his hands chopped off. If someone was found in a place where they were not suppose to be, they could be killed. One culture may find this type of punishment acceptable for the crime committed and look at it as justice served. Another culture may fine this type of justice abit extreme.
    I'm not trying to go to any political issue, just want to point that the fact that kind of law was existed in Afghan, some western countries consider it as one of good reasons to attack this coutry and freed the people from that kind of law. Justice and human rights are now using a global values since we live in a globalized era. There's a standard now apply, otherwise those western goverments wouldn't have been giving money to many third world countries on behalf human rights improvement.


    "there are people in the world so hungry that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread"

    Mahatma Gandhi

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