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Justice the Soul's Astonishment

Justice the Soul's Astonishment

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Published by jas2maui

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Published by: jas2maui on Jan 09, 2011
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01/09/2011

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Can your soul be astonished? More to my point: Can our American souls be astonished?Here are reflections directed to 2012 presidential candidates, notably those who still retain a values-based outlook on life and wonder how they can be elected or govern if, as Christians, they are accused of imposing their faith on a nation now being defined as "post-Christian."In all the blather about redistribution of wealth, fairness, and social justice, there lurks an underlying assumption about justice. What jus-tice are people talking about, and what should we be talking about?Are the rich obligated to help the poor? Is redistribution moral? Should one be compelled to work and provide for one's own? Should pri-vate ownership of anything at all be abrogated? Or, to epitomize the matter along the lines of the early fascism of Benito Mussolini, musteverything serve the interests of society, meaning the State -- of which Mussolini, of course, was the talented, inspired guardian?While our heritage regarding justice was fed by many small tributaries, the confluence of two main rushing streams forms the dynamiccurrent that constitutes the meaning of justice in our heritage. These are, first, the dialogue among the ancient Greeks about justice, be-ginning with Plato's Republic and his other dialogues and, second, justice as understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition, notably in themessages of the biblical prophets.The core issue in The Republic is Thrasymachus' contention (338, 344): I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of thestronger. He then rehearses the advantages of the unjust, arguing that the concept of justice is the shelter of the simpleton but that in- justice is not malignity; rather, it is the exercise of discretion to further one's own interests. Plato replies that no state, army, band of rob-bers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured one another (351)[.]Apply this to Congress, and to state and local governance. Whose interests are being served, and on what ground? Have we been infil-trated by robbers and thieves whose mantra is the interest of the stronger (I won!) Have a segment of the intellectual class created aframework which appears to validate their actions, in contrast to all we have known about justice from our forefathers and the foundersof our nation? Is that framework intellectually and morally viable, properly commanding our assent, or is it time for revolt because wehave been conned by the redefinition of justice into what is, in fact, injustice?Plato's appeal to a reality beyond us is what today's radical class rejects. There is, Plato says, an intelligible world which transcends theworld of our perceptions, which can be grasped only by reason -- a world of which our physical world and concepts are imperfect copies.When we awaken to that world, our souls are astonished to be confronted by transcendent universals. This happens by a process of recollection, a memory of things our souls once saw while following God -- i.e., pursuing truth. These universals are not taught, saysPlato; they are recollections, deeply embedded instincts which through inner longing invite us to transcend our imperfections and movefrom the perceptual to the intelligible realm.Here Plato hints at the disaster of our modern reliance on what is purely behavioral: if there is not recollection -- reflection on that whichis beyond us -- then we define ourselves purely in the terms of motor affective responses, of conditioning and brainwashing. This iswhere the contemporary radical intellectual class are and want to bring us, along with the assumption that they are at the top of thepyramid, privileged to dictate what is best for all: here is a real brain, so let's follow him.Next, Plato draws an analogy between the well-being of the individual and the well-being of the state. Justice is the virtue of each -- vir-tue signifying ability to perform an intended function, not simply goodness.The virtue of the soul is justice, meaning life lived where rationality (wisdom) supervenes and directs mastery of oneself (courage) andobedience only to rational impulses (temperance). Hence the four classical virtues: justice, wisdom, courage, and temperance.In a complementary way, the virtue of the state is justice, meaning that Plato's three analogous segments of society, each having itsown predestined role, harmoniously function in the best interests of the state.First, the virtue of the rulers -- the guardians -- is wisdom. They are the bright ones. Their destiny is to lead.

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