Justice in political philosophy

The text of the speech of Dr. Reza Gholami, a member of the faculty of the Research Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies, in the webinar of the Humanities and Management Conference, organized by: Research and Development Consultative Center in Odisha, India…, June 31, 1402


In the name of God

I greet you and wish you well-being and happiness. I would like to appreciate Dr. Bikram keshori Jena for inviting me to this webinar titled Global Dialogues.

 As you know, the topic of my speech in this webinar is “justice in political philosophy.”

The fact is that during the last few decades, the discourse of neoliberalism has dominated most of the world. In this situation, we are facing an exponential increase in inequality in the whole world and in developed and developing countries.

The people of the world have suffered from the lack of justice in all ages. When I talk about justice, I mean all kinds of justice: cultural justice, social justice, political justice, economic justice, and judicial justice.

Perhaps there are only points in history where a certain level of justice has been done in a certain area and for a short period of time and has pleased the people.

Today, in the modern world, we talk about justice. However, modernism has systematically deprived the human society of justice.

You may ask me what the signs of lack of justice are?

In response to this question, I will point out some important signs of injustice:

 In the cultural field

First, Suppression of talents, deprivation of real diversity and pluralism, and cultural homogenization, which, apart from what happens within countries, can also be felt in the globalization of Western culture and lifestyle.

 In the social arena

Spread of all kinds of social harms from hunger to homelessness; from drug addiction to the lack of healthcare facilities for the general public

 In the political arena

The development of political tyranny and, as a result, the deprivation or serious reduction of basic freedoms (you may say that modernism has helped to weaken tyranny. I also agree, but modernism has replaced traditional tyranny with a new and stylish tyranny. Like Hannah Arendt or Foucault have clearly spoken about modern tyranny and its consequences.)

 In the economic field

Increasing poverty and deprivation and widening the social gap and dividing the society into upper and lower

 In the judicial field

Everyone’s lack of equality before the law, everyone’s lack of access to legal knowledge, and to a lawyer, lack of proportionality between crime and punishment and so on.

As i said, since the beginning of history, man has sought to achieve justice.  However, human beings and human society still do not agree on the concept of justice. Every individual and every society interprets justice differently.

Of course, I don’t believe in radical relativism, and I imagine that a minimal concept of justice can be achieved among mankind.

However, my point is that so far, dozens of definitions of justice have been expressed, and, accordingly, various theories and models have been presented about justice.

In this discussion, I don’t consider justice equal to equality, but I believe that justice means giving the right to the real owner of the right.

 Of course, in this definition of justice, perhaps the right of an individual or society requires equality. In this case, equality will be part of justice.

Here, you may ask me first, what is the right? Secondly, where does the right come from? Thirdly, how can the real owners of the right be found?

There are many disagreements about the meaning and origin of the right. Theists believe in the definite existence of the pure right (Nafs al-Omari). They consider the source of truth to be the creator and master of existence. Nevertheless, the secularists, due to their lack of belief in the right (or the human inability to achieve the right), reduce it to a series of natural rights established in the social contract.

I should parenthetically state that the social contract is the basis of modern law, but in my opinion, apart from being an illusion, it has no solid intellectual foundation.  However, most of the civil systems in the modern West are based on this social contract.

In fact, by abandoning metaphysical philosophy and by abandoning religion, the modern West has had no choice but to resort to an imaginary thing that lacks defensible logic. I will say later that John Rawls’s theory of justice is completely based on the social contract theory.

Well, if we believe in God, religion plays the main role in introducing the right and also the owner of the right. But if we are atheist or secular, we will face many problems in determining the truth and its real examples.

For a believer, faith plays a decisive role. Of course, in Islam, faith is a product of intellectual research, but in reality, faith is the first and last word. When you have faith, you do not doubt the presentation of the truth and the owner of the truth by religion, and you are 100% sure of its correctness.

But in the world of secularists, in addition to the right being a credit matter, it is also a relative matter. In this case, it is clear that it is not possible to correctly identify the owner of the right.

Again, I need to say something in parentheses. When we talk about the relationship between right and religion, we do not mean religion as a set of superstitions. Wherever I speak of religion, I mean a religion whose teachings can be proven through reason and rational arguments. I have this idea of ​​authentic Islam.

Let me continue my previous discussion.

I do not think that in the world of atheists and secularists, there is an impasse in confronting the rightist reading with justice. In the secular world, reason takes the place of religion both in introducing the right and in the introduction of the owner of the right, with the difference that the right and the owner of the right are not considered a definite matter. However, this uncertainty is considered acceptable and reassuring for the assembly of the wise.

If the right and the owner of the right are determined, naturally, there will be equality in some cases. Therefore, I place equality within justice, and I do not logically accept equality and justice as one.

I would like to speak more clearly so that there is no misunderstanding. In the structure of justice, equality is very important. In many cases, equality itself is equal to rights or it creates platforms for bringing rights to the right holder. For example, everyone’s equality in the field of social dignity; everyone’s equality before the law;  Everyone’s use of security; equality for all in enjoying public education, equality for all in using health and treatment facilities; Everyone’s equality in the use of minimum food and housing, etc.

Well, if we consider justice as the meaning of delivering the right to the owner of the right, then justice means being on the path in harmony with the system of existence.  If someone follows this path, many obstacles to his growth and excellence will be removed.

Let me put it more simply. Existence is a very advanced and accurate system. It is true that there are some disorders, but they are not actually disordered. In fact, it is us who have not discovered the paradigm that governs what we consider to be disordered. I have such a view about the chaos that quantum physics presents in nature.

Even in the world of atheists, if the innate reason is used correctly, it is possible to approach the path of the system of existence, and this approach to the system of existence removes many obstacles to human growth and excellence.

Even in material life, being on or approaching the path of the system of existence solves many human problems, especially the incompatibility of humans with each other.

With this statement, it is not an exaggeration to say that justice solves most of the spiritual and material problems of human beings and human society.

One of the main issues of justice in political philosophy is the relationship between freedom and justice. Is freedom before justice? Is freedom the first human virtue, or should justice be considered the first human virtue?

In the past, I used to introduce freedom and justice as the first two virtues, but for some time now, I have come to the conclusion that freedom takes precedence over all virtues.

You must be asking, why did I go back from my previous opinion? Because the main difference between man and other beings in the world is the conscious freedom of man, and until there is no freedom, the possibility of enjoying justice will not be provided. I can even say that thinking is conditioned by the existence of freedom. The realization of morality is conditional on the existence of freedom.

Nevertheless, it should be known that justice does not exist in an absolute and one hundred percent way, either in individual life or in social life. In individual life, man must limit his freedom with the rights of nature, and in society, limit his freedom with the rights of other people.

For this reason, I believe that freedom in society has two limitations: First, Justice and the second, ethics, you may ask why justice? And why ethics? Because it is justice that determines the right and the owner of the right; therefore, the most appropriate thing to bind is freedom.  In fact, in addition to binding freedom to merit, justice is also the best protector of freedom.

But let me also talk about ethics. Morality is an innate thing that all humans have in common. In fact, my opinion about ethics is a Kantian opinion, with the difference that I consider morals useful and necessary in the search for spiritual rewards, and of course, humans will receive their rewards from existence for being faithful to ethics.

If morality is removed from the individual and social life of mankind, mankind will come to its end. When there is no human, there will be no freedom.  Therefore, freedom has no choice but to open the way to limit itself through justice and morality.

My speech about the need to limit freedom by justice and morality raises an important question. The question is whether something can limit something else that is superior to it. If freedom is superior to justice, how does justice have the authority to limit freedom?

This question is very important. To answer this question, I have no choice but to introduce freedom and justice together as the first virtue. On the other hand, morality can also be considered a subject of justice. Or we can say, ethics is a spiritual of all the virtues.

My talk about limiting freedom by justice and morality is not acceptable to some new liberals. They insist that freedom is the first virtue and that justice does not limit human freedom. The meaning of freedom is individual freedoms that give a person an independent identity from the group and give him the role of agency beyond society and civil systems.

Of course, I consider individual freedoms necessary for the survival of humanity, but I consider its limitation by justice and morality above all in the interest of freedom and in the interest of individual freedom.

Liberals do not have correct ideas about the mechanism of society management.  These incorrect ideas are due to their inattention to the complexities of human existence and human society.

 According to Hayek’s belief, the social order has emerged based on a spontaneous order, not due to a previous and rational plan.

 Hayek’s words are true, but does the lack of a previous plan in the formation of society mean that people do not legislate for society after it is formed?  After making laws for the society, don’t people appoint an agent to monitor the implementation of the law and, in some cases, the correct implementation of the law?

Of course, I accept society as an organism. However, this organism does not have an inherent order, and after its initial formation, it acts according to a constructed order.

 The order of the society is created by the human society and based on the values ​​accepted by humans. For this reason, societies do not have a single order, and each society has its own order.

For example, the values ​​of a society may have a different view of the limits of individual freedoms. Or the values ​​of a society may tend to favor society over the individual.  Of course, one can rationally discuss how close these values ​​are to the truth, but these discussions do not change the reality of the diversity and plurality of social orders.

Hayek says: Spontaneous order, because they arise from an evolutionary basis, the level of social cooperation in them is far more subtle and rich than the cooperation based on rules invented and designed by rulers or intellectuals.

I think there is no such thing as spontaneous order, and even insisting on spontaneous order raises the suspicion of social determinism.

It may even lead to the strengthening of social Darwinism. Social Darwinism, which is widely accepted by liberals, opens the door to killing the weak. Proponents of Social Darwinism believe that affected by the work of nature, the weak should be passed over, as nature cruelly destroys the weak. They believe in the survival of the fittest. I consider this view of society dangerous.

Radical liberals insist that the entire society be in the service of their agenda to increase wealth and power! Accordingly, they view society as a tool. Government charity centers have been established mostly with the motive of preventing social riots. Society does not naturally accept becoming a tool. Society wants opportunities for material and spiritual growth to be available for everyone. Even for the child of a simple worker, the possibility of growth based on his talents should be provided. Justice wants to give a positive answer to this logical demand and the right of society.

My question to Hayek is that in democratic societies, the government and social elites are something separate from the body of society? Is it not the people and the majority of the members of the society who elect representatives to run the society? If the people choose elites as their representatives in order to determine social order and rules, what are the rational problems? Or if the people of the elected government make themselves responsible for monitoring the implementation of social rules and in certain matters, what problems will arise logically? Isn’t this method more compatible with free will?

Of course, the liberals’ concern is correct in one sense. Elitism and disregard for people is definitely against justice. Also, creating big governments and taking work from the people and centralizing it in the government is definitely against justice. I consider this concern that the elites elected by the people or the government elected by the people may turn to tyranny.

Perhaps if we are looking for a more realistic theory of justice, it is a more realistic theory that has been able to establish a link between individual freedoms and social rights. In addition, he has been able to stop the tyranny of the elites in addition to using the elites. It can also prevent the concentration of power by restraining and distributing power. In my opinion, true justice does not seek to suppress elites or suppress the government in the name of freedom, but seeks to adjust elites and the state in favor of individual freedoms and public rights.

Let me make a point here. You see, if social justice policies are implemented, it is no longer known that there will be a concentration of wealth similar to the concentration of wealth that occurs in the capitalist system. In addition, wealth is not concentrated in one place and circulates like blood in the veins of society.  Therefore, the face of individual and social life of people in the world will change. The art of a theorist of justice is to clarify the prospects of development in case of the realization of justice for his audience. Of course, the likes of Rawls have theorized in the field of justice in such a way that the structure of economic liberalism does not falter. However, not all theorists of justice guarantee that the edifice of liberalism will not be shaken.

The discussion of justice in political philosophy in our time grew with John Rawls, but it stopped with John Rawls.  That is, it did not change much after Rawls.

Many of today’s discussions are reinterpretations of Rawls’s theory.  However, I believe that Rawls’s theory works mainly for liberal societies.  I think we should first open the way to criticize Rawls’s theory; then create the opportunity for new theories.

It should be noted that the realization of justice requires the participation of the people and the government. Of course, I believe that the role of the people, i.e. the mass of the people, popular institutions, associations and civil unions, the private sector in the economy, and independent parties and media, is more important than the government in achieving justice, but the government, whether in supervisory affairs or in matters that it itself He must do it head on, he has a heavy responsibility. In order for the people and the government to closely cooperate with each other to implement an appropriate level of justice, two things are very important: first, the correct perception of justice and second, turning justice into a common discourse in society.

 For the perception of justice, universities and theorists have an important and decisive role. Today, in the contemporary world, we have many unanswered questions about the philosophy of justice, as well as how to realize justice. The amount that has been theorized about the realization of liberal democracy and economic liberalism and its various models has not been discussed about justice. Of course, we also have good theories. I consider John Rawls’s theory to be a good theory, but I have serious criticisms of it.

On the other hand, as mentioned, if justice does not become the common discourse of a society, even academicians will not turn to extensive theorizing about justice, let alone the people and the government, who should be responsible for the practical realization of justice. Therefore, the discourse of justice is very important. One of the ways to contribute to the formation of justice discourse is to increase the hope of people in various societies for the possibility of realizing justice.

It may also be asked, in which society is social justice more easily achieved? In response to this question, we can say: A society with more awake consciences, a society with stronger emotions and feelings, a more moral society, a society with more social responsibility, a more knowledgeable society, and of course such a society is not created spontaneously. To put it more clearly, public institutions and the government play a role in social education and promotion of public culture. This is where cultural justice conflicts with cultural liberalism.

Every theory or every model about justice has two universal and local layers. This is also an important point.  If we accept the possibility of connecting two layers of justice, there is nothing wrong with not trying to impose a theory and a model on all societies.  For example, the theory and model of India is different from Iran.  Of course, do not ignore the universal layer.  Based on this universality layer, it is possible to work towards spreading justice in the world.

At the end of the speech, I would like to summarize ten points:

The First, the lack of justice in social life is not something that can be easily ignored. Moreover, the void of justice cannot be filled with something else, for example, freedom.

The Second, the concept of justice can be removed from the swamp of extreme relativism, but it should be noted that the concept of justice is an extremely complex concept and so far no definition has been provided that all thinkers agree on.

The Third, the central core of justice is merit, but there is a serious disagreement between atheists and religious people about the source of justice. One considers the source of rights to be the social contract, and another considers the source to be religion.

The Fourth, Justice is not the same as equality, but equality in some cases is a requirement of justice.

The fifth, Freedom and justice are two equal virtues. Ethics should also be considered as a source of virtues.

The sixth, In particular, economic liberalism does not have an accurate and realistic understanding of the mechanism of society, and this incorrect understanding has led them to self-motivate (automatically) mechanism in the administration of society.

The seventh, one can believe in individual freedoms, but social rights also have an important contribution and role in the mechanism of society administration. It is important to first establish an organic connection between them.  Secondly, totalitarianism should be stopped by both libertarians and socialists.

The Eighth, in social justice, the government is not abandoned but rationalized. In addition, people play an essential role in realizing justice.

The Ninth, It is natural that with the realization of a suitable level of justice, some aspects of the capitalist system will be weakened and the face of societies will change.

The tenth, the requirement for the realization of justice is the formation of the common discourse of justice in the society, as well as the expansion of the grounds and moral spirit in the society.

Thank you very much for your attention. I hope my speech was useful for you.