Scott Greenfield is at it again. Bringing up one of our big disagreements. He doesn’t post my comments on his blog, so I won’t bother over there.
What is “justice”? This was the question of one of the seminal works of western civilization, Plato’s Republic. The whole dialogue dealt with it. Various answers were considered and discarded. The one that was settled upon was: Justice is giving every man his due.
Not a lot of content there, admittedly. One could argue that it’s really just a tautology, since you would have to go on from there and ask: what is due? And you would probably wind up back where you began.
And yet, and yet… There were four cardinal virtues in western tradition: Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice. None of them is easy to define, yet they formed the basis for ideas about virtuous behavior for centuries. They still do.
Scott says, basically, justice is in the eye of the beholder. It means one thing to you, a different thing to another person, a third thing to another, and so on, ad infinitum.
In other words, objectively speaking, there’s no such thing.
It’s weird. Scott says over and over, explicitly, that this is what he believes. And then he says over and over, implicitly, that he believes no such thing. He calls his blog “Simple Justice”. He chronicles bad behavior by judges and others. He decries unjust behavior by cops, prosecutors and so on, and then disclaims any intention to do that.
He’s very smart and very productive and very well intended and very much a good man and very, very much a part of the problem, although he doesn’t mean to be.
The fact that something is difficult of definition or application does not mean it does not exist. Love cannot be easily defined, and often means different concrete things to different people in different contexts, but Scott loves his son and writes about him sometimes. He’d be offended – and should be – if I suggested that it was bullshit to say he “loved” his son when he can’t define what love is.
Does Scott dispute that there are “wrongful convictions”? No. But how on earth would you decide that a conviction was wrongful?
Scott’s stated positions on this subject (as opposed to his real opinions, which are easy enough to see) are just warmed over relativism, a largely early 20th century intellectual fad, though it continued to dominate law schools and academia generally and New York City and Washington DC long after it was really, really worn out. It’s passe. Vapid. Vacuous. Someone should tell Scott.
I guess I just did.