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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

on goodness, ethics and justice

Being good cannot be manifested in simply obeying the law. Since goodness is relative, let me clarify that goodness means righteousness, doing what is just for oneself and for everyone else, and following the dictates of the conscience. Given this, there are conjunctions between one’s idea of goodness and the law, which is basically the tacit agreement among people regarding what is just for all. However, certain laws may likely be perverted by dominant groups in society so to be genuinely good, one does not necessarily follow such laws blindly. Socrates laid down rare circumstances in which simple rules, when followed strictly albeit indiscriminately, can yield catastrophic outcomes. Being good is being able to discern whether exceptions may be applied in such possibly disastrous instances.
Therefore, a person who religiously follows one’s conscience but in the process overlooks the fact that his conscience goes by a defective rule, is not necessarily virtuous. Again, the law may be a social contract, but there are instances in which it needs to be violated for the nobler goal of fulfilling the Aristotelian ethical ends more than the agreed-upon social contract. This especially holds true if the consequence of lawbreaking will actually yield good, meaning it becomes justifiable. Social law pales compared to natural or divine law, the latter being the ultimate rule that one sets one’s ethical standards against. If being good is pursued for the sole purpose of using it as a means to be called good, it is an exercise in futility. It must be remembered that faulty actions like this gradually build character, so if goodness of action is not done well and consistently, one falls short of the virtuous ideal. It should always be what is just for oneself and for others that one must follow rules for. One does not have to follow laws consistently especially if the rule is flawed, but one should always follow the pursuit of excellence or virtue, because this makes man good.
The law is not necessarily defective, so it cannot be that one should always break it just because one deems this violation necessary in pursuit of a greater goal. Hence, one may be caught in the middle of obedience to the law and subscribing to one’s principles. This may be interpreted as the practice of the golden mean, or the pursuit of the balance in all things. One suits one’s degrees of action depending on the requirement of different situations. Strictly following the laws which one actually abhors sticking to leans too much on the extreme right side, while dismissing it leans too much on the opposite side. If deep inside, one wants to disobey laws, it may be that those laws do not blend well with one’s discernment of justice. It must be remembered that one’s concept of justice should be parallel to the justice being upheld by the ideal city. Therefore, if the laws are upright, there is no reason why a citizen will consciously violate them, since that is as bad as self-destructing. What laws are being implemented in the ideal city are laws that are meant to cause happiness and sustain justice for all citizens as much as possible.

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