Sunday, April 01, 2007


The Idea of Justice

I was talking with a Christian friend of mine about various things, and he made an interesting point (which I don't quite agree with): only God can be Just.

Often we tend to think of Christianity as providing an idealistic (in the common sense of the word) critique of Jewish views of justice and of Jewish legalism. But actually, the Christian critique is an Idealistic (in the technical/metaphysical sense of the word) but more importantly a realistic (in the common sense of the word), perhaps even cynical, rather than idealistic critique of Jewish Pragmatism (in the technical/philosophical sense of the word) regarding, e.g., justice. Of course, what Jesus actually is supposed to have said doesn't drift far away from Pragmatism -- it's actually quite utilitarian ("that which you do to the least of them" and "judge not lest ye be judged" are actually pretty close to Rawls, if you ask me), but Paul does add a very un-Jewish, un-Pragmatic, realist/Idealist spin.

But does it really help matters to be a hard-headed cynic and say any idea of human justice is futile and that "Justice" exists and only exists on some plane of the Ideas rather than as something we can attempt to achieve as the result of a legal process in the physical world.? If you ask me, there is something to the idealistic Pragmatism of Judaism -- even if we can never really be just, isn't it better to pursue justice than to deem it futile? Sometimes it's more pragmatic to be an idealist rather than a realist. Heck, sometimes it's Idealistic to be Pragmatic -- just ask Kant ;)

At the very least, to view a reaction against Jewish legalism as necessarily idealistic is to kind of miss the point of what both the "legalism" and the "reaction" entail. But alas, such simple-minded categorization is still used to misrepresent our religion and our Bible ...

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