Saturday, May 02, 2009
Being good cannot be manifested in simply obeying the law. There must be a consideration of what is lawful or fair, since the opposite of that is injustice. The laws enjoin citizens to behave virtuously, so the just (therefore, lawful) person is necessarily virtuous. Goodness deals with following the dictates of one’s morality, but lawfulness means relating fairly with others. If one must be good, one must perform voluntary acts of justice. If one does not obey the law, one is not automatically bad because the mistake might have been done out of rationally inevitable ignorance. Only when injustices are done knowledgably do they become injurious and their actors, bad. The word “simply” should not be equated to fulfilling the requirement of obeying the law. Being truly just derives from one’s virtuous character, and one who is not good will never be able to understand the idea of justice in all stances. Not all laws breed perfect justice, since certain laws are perverted to protect the interests of dominant groups in society. Only equity will address the imbalance which means one cannot just follow laws blindly for fear that it will defeat the purpose of injustice. It is therefore good to follow rules discriminatingly, otherwise these laws followed strictly without premeditation can result in disaster, as may be gleaned in Socrates’ Crito. In Nicomachean Ethics’ Book I, Chapter 7, Aristotle said that “We have found, then, that the human function is activity of the soul in accord with reason or requiring reason.” One becomes good as an outcome of using his reason to discern whether a law applies justice in specific contexts. 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. The law is not necessarily defective, it approaches what id just for everybody, so it cannot be that one should always break it just because one deems this violation necessary in pursuit of a greater goal. As his Book I, Chapter 1 asserts, “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” One is good when obeying the law makes him and others achieve the end goal of happiness.