An atomistic model of society leads us to address injustices in terms of individual rights, but rights are curious possessions and don't always give the protection that's needed. Examples are patient's rights, children's rights and a fetus's right to life, all of which go wrong because they assume that the subjects are independent and autonomous. This assumption often fails. Rights work where people are in a position to press them; for others they give only a caricature of justice.
A common justification for retributive views of punishment is the idea that injustice is intolerable and must be answered. For instance F. H. Bradley writes: Why … do I merit punishment? It is because I have been guilty. I have done ‘wrong’… Now the plain man may not know what he means by ‘wrong’, but he is sure that, whatever it is, it ‘ought’ not to exist, that it calls and cries for obliteration; that, if he can remove it, it (...) rests also upon him, and that the destruction of guilt, whatever be the consequences, and even if there be no consequences at all, is still a good in itself; and this, not because a mere negation is a good, but because the denial of wrong is the assertion of right. A wrong is something that ought not to exist and calls to be obliterated. If anyone is able to remove it, he is obligated to do so or the wrong will also be partly his. To deny or obliterate a wrong is to assert right, Bradley says—as if the two things were counterpoised, one able to cancel the other. It reminds us of the balance held by the figure of Justice, and of debts and credits in accounts. Paying a debt erases it; the debt no longer exists. In a similar way punishment is supposed to erase wrong. (shrink)
Of all moral conditions, innocence seems easily the best and most desirable, for it means the complete absence of error and regret and all the anxieties that go with these—anxieties about avoiding guilt and making amends for instance. Against the background of guilt and traffic with wrong, innocence is indisputably better, just as something clean is better than something soiled, something fresh better than something stale.
An essay to develop some of Wittgenstein's remarks about the notion of 'criteria' and to give the concept clarity even at the expense of some features Wittgenstein claimed for it. This effort was made because of the important role 'criteria' plays in Wittgenstein's discussions of feelings and mental states, and it is hoped that a defense of 'criteria' will make those discussions more coherent. An attempt is made to relate this notion of 'criteria' to the definition and expression of mental (...) states, following some of Wittgenstein's suggestions, and to rebut skepticism about other minds. (shrink)
Wittgenstein remarked to a friend that although he was not religious, he approached things from "a religious point of view." To cast light on what he meant I turn to two works Wittgenstein is known to have read and admired, one by William James and the other by Leo Tolstoy. I looked for similar themes in their work and the philosophical works of Wittgenstein, with results that, while not conclusive, are quite suggestive.
In moral as in other branches of philosophy good examples are indispensable: examples, that is, which bring out the real force of the ways in which we speak and in which language is not ‘ on holiday’. Peter Winch, ‘The Universalizability of Moral Judgments.’.