Philosophy: What Is Justice? Essay, Research Paper
Can there be justice for all? To answer this question I must first define what justice is. Justice is “the quality of being just, impartial or fair” in your dealings with others according to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Keeping that definition in mind, I now must turn to the Voices of Wisdom in order to find an example of a situation in which all parties feel that they are being treated justly. After examining examples such as: Euthanasia, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and equal opportunity offered within the book, it becomes clear to me that there is in fact no possible way for there to be justice for all because everyone’s judgement is in some way or another clouded by their own self interests.
Euthanasia, people can decide exactly how they want to live but should we as a society allow them the right to decide exactly how they want to die? On the one hand you have the question “is it just to kill someone or allow them to die when help is available?” The obvious answer is no of course not. This is a prime example of why there can be no justice for all, because on the other hand you have the question “is it fair to force someone to live through unbearable pain in anticipation of an agonizing death?” The obvious answer to that question is also no. This is where our self-interests come into play. It is in the patient’s own self interests to die because it will ease her pain, but is not in mine to alleviate her of her life “because death is final and irreversible”, and because “euthanasia contains within it the possibility that [I] will work against [my] own interest if [I] practice it or allow it to be practiced on [others].” (J. Gay-Williams, pp.185). This is why our own self-interests unavoidably will not allow us to have a just society.
A society is only as equitable as the treatment accorded its most vulnerable members. Therefore, discrimination against anyone based on his or her sexual orientation is a clear and incurable symptom of an unjust society. For example, should someone’s sexual orientation be grounds for restricting their rights? (Daniel C. Palm) The impartial answer would of course be no, everyone should be treated the same. But we still hear the chant “No gays or lesbians in the military”. This is because it is in the self interests of the heterosexual people in the military have homosexuals in the military. The injustice of this idea becomes crystal clear when we examine the opposite statement of “No heterosexuals in the military” an idea that is equally ludicrous. (Kessler, pp.174) As a result of the way we instinctively treat those that are different because they are seen as a threat, our society is will remain perpetually unjust. (Richard E. Mohr)
Because of widespread discrimination based not only on race, but also on sex, religion and sexual preference it is impossible for society to offer each and every individual a perfectly equal chance at opportunities such as hiring, promotion, housing, and educational practices that should be within their reach; as a consequence, it is impossible for society to be just for all. According to the formal principle of justice, it is required “that benefits and burdens be distributed fairly according to relevant differences and similarities.” (Kessler, pp.175) Using this principle it would seem that affirmative action programs of preferential treatment are in truth unjust to white males in that such programs require that “all things being equal” preferential treatment should be given to minorities and females which violates the formal principle of justice by not treating equal people equally. On the other hand, “such preferential treatment programs are often justified by appeal to the principle of compensatory justice, which states that whenever an injustice has happened a just compensation must be made to those who have been injured.” (Kessler, pp.194) According to that principle affirmative action should be considered just in relationship to minorities. As a result, because equal opportunity legislation is not in accordance with the best self-interests of most white males but it is in accordance with those of most minorities, this is another example of a situation in which injustice is inevitable.
After closely examining these three specific situations in which injustice—because of our natural tendency to look after our own best self-interests—is certain, it can be concluded that it is hopeless to try to attain such an idea as a society that is just for all. Because these perpetually unjust situations such as euthanasia, discrimination based on sexual preference, ideas like affirmative action or situations similar to these will most likely permanently exist, a society in which there is justice for all is unreachable.