Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another Argument from Justice

1. All wrongs ought to be made right (principle of justice).

2. If something ought to be done, then it can be done.

3. Therefore, all wrongs can be made right (from 1-2).

4. If God does not exist, then not all wrongs can be made right.

5. Therefore, God exists (from 3-4).

This is a valid argument, as (3) serves not only as the conclusion to the first syllogism, but the minor premise in the next one. All that remains is to know whether or not the premises are true. The first premise is just the principle of justice. Whatever one may think when she reads "all wrongs ought to be made right," all that it does mean is that individual acts of injustice or wrong must be brought to justice; this is a fairly straightforward moral and ethical theory.

(2) is the common moral principle "ought implies can." Some people would disagree with this. However, it is difficult to formulate a good objection to this principle, for the following reason. Consider a man who is morally obligated to do some individual act which it is impossible for him to do, or a woman who is morally obligated to refrain from some act from which she cannot refrain. How does it follow they are morally culpable? In fact, doesn't the placing of the obligation imply that they are able to fulfill that obligation? Wouldn't it be somewhat irrational to hold such a moral expectation of someone who cannot, in fact, fulfill that expectation?

(3) is simply a conclusion of (1-2) and so cannot be denied on its own. (4) may seem counterintuitive at first, but consider if a personal God were not behind morality, there are certain acts for which there cannot be justice, even in principle (such as the man who murders his family and immediately kills himself; even though there is a life for a life, there is nonetheless no justice).[1] However, in the suicide example, God may very well bring justice to the individual for his sins. In fact, within Christianity, God sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die on the cross, paying the penalty for humanity's sins, and raising again the third day. Thus, justice is served potentially for every wrong that has ever been (or will ever be) committed. But then it follows that God exists, and Christianity may well be (and is, in fact) the greatest and most wonderfully correct option of those theistic religions of the world.

                [1] We are supposing that impersonal forces, such as karma and reincarnation (both of which would be needed for our example) are false, and that the major alternatives are theism/deism/morally perfect personal beings and atheism. While reincarnation promises justice and retribution, it not only seems unlikely on the face of it, but also may present its own problems (with justice being an abstract object, for example).

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