Justice vs. Mercy | INFJ Forum

Justice vs. Mercy

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Julia, Sep 5, 2009.

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  1. Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    There is a long-standing assumption that justice is a more objective position and mercy requires empathy and personal investment in resolving a scenario. I view it from a different perspective and would like to test my thinking against other views.

    In my observations of both individuals and society, justice is dependent on a more singular vantage point and set of values. When an individual feels anger when their rights are violated, they seek justice and punishment for the offender. Justice imposes one set of values on another set of values.

    Individuals commit violations because in their mind it is "just" based on their personal experience and the distortions in their perceptions that result. The people who violated me in my life perceived me as something deserving of those violations. They typically viewed it as justice. There appears to be a drive in each person to balance their personal equations by punishing others. I have done it, but only when my comprehension was most limited.

    By contrast, mercy acknowledges that there are different vantage points and that each individual is a unique system with its own set of values. It is about not imposing one system on another. Distortions in perception that result from taking a negative experience and imposing it on a new experience are at the root of most violations. It spreads much like a virus in this way. By viewing the conflict from multiple vantages points, there is less of an impulse to mirror and reflect back the violation, but to build up immunity by becoming its opposite.

     
    #1 Julia, Sep 5, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
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  2. rainrise

    rainrise Community Member

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    i agree wholeheartedly with your explanation. i'll sleep on this and may have something to add later on.
     
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  3. Puck

    Puck Perilous Pixie
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    That really made a lot of sense. Thank you. :)
     
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    Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    Thanks for the replies. One thing I should mention, I'm not necessarily implying that there is never a place for justice at the individual or societal level, but that it is best viewed for what it is - imposing one's values on another. The only way I see it not being that is if one could prove there are universal values that exist apart from perception.

    Whether a tornado destroys my family or an individual who has been psychologically distorted through experience, either way the violation occurred as a result of a series of cause-and-effect relationships. There is reason to take precautions to prevent further damage from the tornado and/or murderer, but what is the role of punishing either source except to indulge an overcompensation for a previous lack of personal power to prevent the violation? If the punishment could alter the murderer to prevent further damage whereas it couldn't the tornado, then that is a reason to act on the murderer, however the anger at either event appears equivalent to me. If my acting on the murderer makes me become more like him, then I have balanced my violation equation by becoming an equal violator. It internalizes the violation and perpetuates it. It could be something like punishing a tornado by dropping a bomb on it and causing equivalent or worse damage than the initial tornado.
     
  5. Orion

    Orion Strength through understanding
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    I agree completely.

    Something I can't wrap my head around though... If someone murders my friend, then there is nothing that can be done to rebalance the situation. That person is gone forever and the act is cemented forever. Sending someone to prison can be seen as a punishment for the crime, but is that justice? Nothing we can do to the murderer will ever be able to undo that crime, the loss can never be regained. So it seems that any kind of reaction to the murder and the person responsible can be seen as futile or, as you said, just an emotional reaction. But that's not justice is it? So, the only reason we send people to prison or kill them is as a deterrent? That's a pretty expensive deterrent. One that doesn't work.
     
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  6. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    Justice First
    Mercy Second.

    You need to know what you're being merciful about.
     
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    Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    Most people would agree that murdering your friend was a violation and that the perpetrator should be violated in return. What is difficult for me to reconcile is that the murderer in that scenario likely saw his act as justice, possibly to the same degree. More people would agree with the revenge for the friend, but without a universal value system, both events can be internally experienced as the same event.

    If everything is approached on the same playing field - one in which the personal dominance of imposing self on others is the only rule, then the way to balance the situation is to dominate the person who violated you by internalizing and acting out even more of the violating traits. In that case both are submitting to the process, but only change in terms of dominance in relationship to each other.

    My position is not to submit to the other within the dynamic of dominance, but to reject the process by extending awareness outside of ego/self and not functioning on that playing field. The analogy of the spread of a virus (and killing one virus with another) or building immunity through a different process maps pretty well to the point I am trying to make.

    What would happen if mercy is offered without enough knowledge? I realize continued harm can occur, but complete knowledge is not typically an option. In some ways mercy is a way to withhold action until knowledge accumulates. Acting on justice first and then gaining knowledge that would have resulted in mercy is tougher to reconcile than acting in mercy first, gaining knowledge that leads to executing justice. What is the pitfall of acting in mercy first?
     
    #7 Julia, Sep 5, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  8. TheLastMohican

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    In general, justice considers what the offender did, and mercy considers who the offender is. The former (in a legal system) is determined according to a set of rules previously agreed upon, and the latter is determined according to people's opinions of exceptions to those rules.
    Justice in subjective in formulation, and objective in application. Mercy serves to correct "justice" when it is unreasonably applied to a special situation. The weakness of mercy is that it is usually not determined by consensus, and is therefore more vulnerable to mistakes born of subjectivity. (In the days of monarchy and more centralized power, of course, justice had exactly the same problem.)
     
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    Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    This is helpful and addresses the concepts occurring at the level of society rather than the individual. When you say mercy considers who the offender is, does that apply to that individual's position in society or to additional information about how the actions came into being, or both? If the system of justice does not accommodate that additional information, then it will rely on the individuals to implement it rather than the system. Is it the system or the nature of mercy itself that requires individual consideration? My inclination is to think that mercy requires individual consideration only for the purpose of seeing how it aligns in a more nuanced way with a particular set of values (which is still a form of judgment). Mercy can also be conceived of from a completely external vantage point that does not place a particular event in relationship with a larger system of values.

    My reading of your post is that when an external system is created based on consensus to decide upon and implement justice and mercy, then when information falls outside that system, it relies on the values of fewer individuals which tends to be more subjective. This does not necessarily address the nature of the concepts of justice and mercy, but that either concept becomes more subjective when its implementation falls outside that preconceived system.

    edit: There are a number of sub-topics here including whether it is discussed at the individual or societal level, or theory vs. implementation. Also, exploring the opposite concept to Justice as Mercy based on love rather than hate or non-judgment rather than judgment. Those two layers are potentially quite entangled.
     
    #9 Julia, Sep 5, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  10. VH

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    I find the relevance of this topic to be very apt for the MBTI.

    The questions that ask if one values Justice or Mercy more have always been a sticking point for me because in my opinion, there is no true Justice without Mercy, nor is there true Mercy without Justice. These two things must coexist in order for either of them to truly be the ideal that they represent. Without the Justice, Mercy is simply blind sympathy and therefore merciless to the victim. Without Mercy, Justice is simply impartial legalism and therefore unjust to the accused.

    When I answer this question on the MBTI, I have to ask myself which requires the presence of the other more, and it really depends on my mood.
     
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  11. Azure_Knight

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    I agree with Shai. Justice is more important than mercy.
     
  12. TheLastMohican

    TheLastMohican Captain Obvious
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    Perhaps a better way of saying it was that mercy considers what was done to the offender. That requires qualification, because justice often does include considerations like that, such as in pleas of self-defense. But it does not consider the person's status or more specific feelings (except for the "crime of passion"). There is some crossover between justice and mercy in practice, because those who interpret and enforce the law are people capable of merciful feelings (juries and judges).


    I would say that justice and mercy are inherently at the societal and individual levels, respectively. It is problematic to take either to the opposite level: individual justice is better known as revenge, and societal mercy is better known as leniency.
     
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  13. IndigoSensor

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    I am a very very forgiving. Some people think this is a bad quality, but I look for the good in pretty much any situation or scenerio presented to me. When I see a crime on the news, or something to that effect, the first thing I think about is "what was the motivation for them to do it", and that is usually what I would base what punishment should be on. I am against the death penalty. I often tell people "it is worse to sit in jail for ever, then to die", and that is sort of true. The thing is though, I very much disagree with the "eye for an eye" philsophy. It just bothers me, and I don't think it is fair. I don't think anyone deserves to die. If someone were to kill my mom (the person who I am closest to in my life), I would not want that person to die in turn. Despite how hurt I would be, I don't think they would deserve that. In all honesty, I could potentially see myself saying that they shouldn't even be going to jail. I, more then anything, would want to sit down with them and just ask them "...why". I just can't bring myself to wish punishment on anyone.

    I am sort of rambaling at this point, but in a nutshell, I put mercy before justice.
     
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    Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    I'll have to think about mercy being leniency at the societal level because that could be the case. It depends also on its relationship to shared values.

    I am not seeing justice as inherently existing at the societal level when there are examples of mob rule, genocide, and tyranny that are common when shared values come together in a society. Whatever occurs at the societal level has more force behind it. It is also reasonable to consider that an individual can implement justice (for example quit a job where they are being exploited) without any sense of revenge involved. Societies require shared values in order to function and so justice as the implementation of values does function naturally at the societal level. I don't see this as implying it has a higher level of objectivity than mercy, but that it relies on shared values rather than shared emotions when implemented.

    One thing I should address though, the term mercy does imply a personal and emotional response, and I am using it primarily to mean non-judgment and withholding punishment, so I might need to find a different term or at least clarify that my focus is on certain aspects of the term in relationship to justice.

    Correcting a situation and punishing a person can be different things. For example, a society focused on punishment will take longer identifying illnesses that produced the harm and can be treated which solves a bigger issue than the case at hand.
     
    #14 Julia, Sep 5, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  15. AUM

    AUM The Romantic Scientist

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    I'm actually one of those individuals that believe in justice, and I try to do everything in my power for everything to be fair for everyone despite the motivation behind the action. If I see a starving man stealing food, with all the pain in my heart I would still call the police and have him arrested. In my head I think that if the robbery is left and no justice is showed that may lead other people to do the same and potentially lead to greater flaws in the system. The same thing with me, once I had no choice but to drive while in the influence of alcohol but it was a matter of life and death but when I finished attending my business I pulled over to a cop and told him that I was driving and I was sort of drunk. He didn't arrest me but gave me a big fine and a suspension of my license for 5 years that I'm still paying despite that the motivation behind my action of driving like that was justified. If I see somebody murdered I would like the criminal to be paid with the same token not with the death penalty but by other means that is just to the family involved.

    Some laws are meant to be broken but if I actually see that a law has a useful implication and actually makes sense I would follow it to the fullest extent.
     
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  16. rainrise

    rainrise Community Member

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    how does one hold anger towards a tornado and punish it for the damage it has caused? as a natural catastrophe, its doings are unconscious and cannot be personalized and put to blame.

    i realize that it may seem at first unreasonable to compare an individual person with a natural catastrophe as it is generally understood that humans are conscious of their intentions and actions and therefore culpable whereas the latter has no conscience.

    however, if one were truly conscious of their intentions and actions, they would not choose suffering over peace. no one would choose suffering (whether inflicting it or receiving it) unless they were unconscious and falsely believed that the present suffering to lead to a future peace or that it somehow buys them what they want (peace), which of course it cannot truly do. the individual may find pleasure in the act of murder and mistake that for what they want, but pleasure leads to inevitable pain within a vicious cycle. similarly, if one punishes that individual for their act in a similarly unconscious way, like Julia said, this only perpetuates pain.

    i didn't intend to add anything new here as this is just my own understanding of Julia's post, which i found to be very enlightening.
     
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    Julia

    Julia Community Member

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    I've been thinking about the portion placed in bold here, and it comes down to a matter of personal perception again. If an individual's own values are aligned with the original law, then mercy in relation to that law is seen as leniency. If the individual's values are not aligned with that law, relaxing it will be perceived as freedom. In this way permissiveness in applying a particular law is often just a step towards abolishing it when the consensus of a society no longer supports it.

    To give a neutral example: There is strongly enforced speed limit of 45 mph on a stretch of road. The police closely monitor and enforce this law punishing and ticketing those who drive faster. Then this enforcement is relaxed, the police quit monitoring. Those who value the slower speed will see this as leniency, and those who think it makes sense to drive faster will see it as increased freedom. In a way the increased leniency/freedom is less invested in personal intention because it no longer imposes one set of values on another. No one is being pressured to go either 45 or 75, and the absence of punishment implies either speed is equivalent. Freedom produces less personal intention. Insert any topic in which modern societies have conflicting values that are strongly represented: abortion, gay rights, marijuana use, etc., and it is clear that the same "mercy" in applying a particular law is both leniency and freedom depending on personal values. This also demonstrates that justice merely represents consensus which also changes over time. Judgment and punishment is by its nature derived from personal perception and is more vulnerable to internal distortions than mercy.
     
    #17 Julia, Sep 6, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2009
  18. Barnabas

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    I believe that there might some conflict after this statement.

    I am in total disagreement with you Julia at the very lowest of levels. and that level is that I believe in a real and powerful natural law. In that we are born with values and express them before we can the define them. with that being said Justice and Mercy have completely different meanings.

    Justice is a punishment for braking the natural law and mercy is to be declared no penalty.

    If you would like me to explain it more, I can try.
     
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  19. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    In which case, it's not Justice.
     
  20. IndigoSensor

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    I bounce between Justice and Mercey evenly until I find common ground between the two. I more often then not start and end with justice though.
     
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