Is Every Breach of Every Agreement "Unjust"?

  • I fully approve of strict reading!

    So, I see now that you are being very narrow in what you mean by justice: it's an agreement (necessary, but not sufficient), but not just any agreement; it's specifically an agreement not to harm.

    I can work with that definition for the sake of pursuing this discussion. As per one of my previous comments, I don't think that invalidates any of my arguments.

    I would personally go further, to say that it's unjust to violate ANY of our explicit agreements (not merely to withdraw from them - but to deliberately violate), but I can see where some might object, and I don't think it's a terribly important point right now.

  • Todd you don't know me as well as Elayne does. Elayne knows I often think out loud and say things in mid-thought without necessarily being committed to the result. I like to think that I am clear when I am doing that but I know I am not always. In this discussion, as in most discussions of anticipations, I always try to restate that all this is pretty speculative.

    So you are right in your last point - I am not sure that anything we are discussing is fully formed. I think what we are doing is trying to unwind the train of thought without committing to any conclusion of it.

    And I think what I am really doing is trying to view all this from the lens of justice being a "virtue" and given how flexible Epicurus seems to be about the nature of ANY virtue, considering that he is probably very flexible here too -- and tying the result as you are doing to pain and pleasure (when means feeling) with the logic of "rule-based" part of it strictly instrumental.

    As to Elayne's comments which add up to:

    "If justice were rational it would not be in the prolepses which are part of the Canon. None of the Canon is reason-based. It's how we know reality, not what we decide to do."

    .... I think I am viewing that slightly differently. I am viewing "justice" as "virtue" and I view any "virtue" as a "concept," with concepts being rational constructions which may, or may not have the feelings as a component.

    So if an anticipation is essentially some kind of "perception" in the sense that the eyes perceive light, then we probably do need to consider that an "anticipation of justice" might be an input to a "conception of justice" or a "definition of justice in a particular situation."

    I think I need to go to sleep for the night. ;)

  • Quote

    I can't imagine Epicurus defining justice two different ways-- a prolepsis AND a definition for what counts as justice and what doesn't.

    Right, but if we trust the sources, it seems like that is exactly what we are faced with. I'm inclined to give more weight to the PDs relating to justice, which all contain some form of "justice is" or "justice is not". If he was describing the conditions that give rise to a sense of justice or injustice, I'd expect them to read differently. Could this be an issue of translation?


    But they should be aware of the types of actions that will trigger each other to sense injustice.

    Yes! Very important!

  • One more thought for the night:

    If justice is a virtue just like any other virtue, let's compare it to prudence or courage.

    Is there really such a thing as "absolute courage" or "absolute prudence" apart from particular contextual situations that change moment by moment? And is not some action that might appear courageous or prudent at one moment considered to be foolhardy the next if the circumstances change? And are not all these evaluated contextually at every moment as to what results in terms of pain or pleasure?

    Is justice any different?

  • Probably good for us to reread Torquatus too:

    XVI. It remains to speak of Justice, to complete the list of the virtues; but this admits of practically the same treatment as the others. Wisdom, Temperance, and Courage I have shown to be so closely linked with Pleasure that they cannot possibly be severed or sundered from it. The same must be deemed to be the case with Justice. Not only does Justice never cause anyone harm, but on the contrary it always adds some benefit, partly owing to its essentially tranquilizing influence upon the mind, partly because of the hope that it warrants of a never-failing supply of the things that uncorrupted nature really needs. And just as Rashness, License, and Cowardice ever torment the mind, ever awakening trouble and discord, so Unrighteousness, when firmly rooted in the heart, causes restlessness by the mere fact of its presence; and if once it has found expression in some deed of wickedness, however secret the act, yet it can never feel assured that it will always remain undetected.

    The usual consequences of crime are, first suspicion, next gossip and rumor, then comes the accuser, then the judge; many wrongdoers have even turned evidence against themselves, as happened in your consulship. And even if any think themselves well fenced and fortified against detection by their fellow men, they still dread the eye of heaven, and fancy that the pangs of anxiety night and day gnawing at their hearts are sent by Providence to punish them. But what can wickedness contribute towards lessening the annoyances of life, commensurate with its effect in increasing them, owing to the burden of a guilty conscience, the penalties of the law and the hatred of one's fellows?

    Yet nevertheless some men indulge without limit their avarice, ambition and love of power, lust, gluttony and those other desires, which ill-gotten gains can never diminish but rather must inflame the more; inasmuch that they appear proper subjects for restraint rather than for reformation. Men of sound natures, therefore, are summoned by the voice of true reason to justice, equity, and honesty. For one without eloquence or resources dishonesty is not good policy, since it is difficult for such a man to succeed in his designs, or to make good his success when once achieved.

    On the other hand, for the rich and clever generous conduct seems more in keeping, and liberality wins them affection and good will, the surest means to a life of peace; especially as there really is no motive for transgressing since the desires that spring from nature are easily gratified without doing any man wrong, while those that are imaginary ought to be resisted, for they set their affections upon nothing that is really wanted; while there is more loss inherent in Injustice itself than there is profit in the gains it brings.

    Hence Justice also cannot correctly be said to be desirable in and for itself; it is so because it is so highly productive of gratification. For esteem and affection are gratifying, because they render life safer and fuller of pleasure. Hence we hold that Unrighteousness is to be avoided not simply on account of the disadvantages that result from being unrighteous, but even far more because when it dwells in a man's heart it never suffers him to breathe freely or know a moment's rest.

    If then even the glory of the Virtues, on which all the other philosophers love to expatiate so eloquently, has in the last resort no meaning unless it be based on pleasure, whereas pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically attractive and alluring, it cannot be doubted that pleasure is the one supreme and final Good and that a life of happiness is nothing else than a life of pleasure.

  • I actually do, for myself, classify most of those virtues first as innate sensations, which occur with pleasure to the point they aren't separate, but still have a distinct... "flavor"?

    When I think of courage, for instance, it's primarily a nonverbal _sensation_ in my chest. Yes, I can give story examples of courage, but how would I have come to assign a word to it to begin with and build a concept, if I did not start with this sensation of "feeling courageous", which I can recognize by empathy in actions of others?

    I see these very fundamental biological sensations as the primary information, which do fuel more complex rational concepts but are mainly nonrational/experiential, and the degree to which they please us is what makes them virtues or not. And then the decision process for action, which is rational, is based on that hedonic calculus.

    Organizing it this way is certainly my own philosophy, c/w personal experience-- and when I read Epicurus on it, I feel agreement with him. But it's possible his philosophy differs from my personal experience!

  • the closest term I can come up with besides prolepses is "innate mental senses"-- senses very similar to vision which are more like what in English we call feelings (here we restrict that to pain and pleasure, but I think you know what I mean)!

    I have always noticed this, but it was hard to find people who understood what I was saying-- either because I am not explaining myself clearly or because my brain is doing things differently, lol. Always possible. Although I use a lot of words and concepts in communication, my internal experience is not very verbal or conceptual, and that might be unusual.

    But when I read Epicurus, I had this sensation we were on the same page. And I was thrilled that he had figured this out before modern developmental and game theory research, just as he correctly predicted atoms and other phenomena.

    I am trusting my senses-- in this case, my mental sensations-- on how things work, along with research that at least supports and doesn't contradict my senses.

  • Here's another one-- "honesty "-- fundamentally not a concept. It's a sensation of things matching up-- what you experience and what you express. There is no way I can imagine being able to learn that sense-- it would be like saying we aren't born being able to taste sweet.

    The learning part is that after tasting sugar, fruit, etc, next time we see these things we will expect the sweet taste. We aren't born with the taste itself but the sense to taste it.

    Same with honesty-- we aren't born with a concept or experience, but we have the mental apparatus to "know" when things are matching up. Then we learn the word for it, and the ideas people have built up.

    Even though I know the concepts around honesty, I still experience the act of being honest as a rapid, intuitive nonverbal sensation.

  • I think dishonesty is learned though!

    I say this just as an interesting thing I've observed with my daughter - I'm not trying to make any point related to this discussion of Justice.

    Do you agree?

    Edit:. After I wrote this, I realized that we're probably not thinking of the same thing when we use these words, and that is the root of much of the seeming disagreement.

    When you say honesty or Justice, you mean feelings, but when I use those words, I'm thinking of concepts.