Sunday, November 4, 2007

On Justice and Violence

A post by Tom Vollmer:

Is violence always wrong?I find this whole ethical interpretation rather interesting, especially in relationship to justice. For Levinas punishing a person should be done without degrading (19). He then makes this statement, "Admittedly, there is violence. But it is an act without a spirit of violence, contempt or hatred" (20). How does one keep the spirit of violence in check? It seems that the rabbis and Levinas predicate it upon the word "brother" and thus place it in a mediatorial type of role whereby the best interest of the person, though being punished, is still considered. He then speaks of justice becoming compassion, and places it into the divine realm. "God speaks with a compassion that is born in the severity of the tribunal" (20). Thus, God in some respects partners with human tribunals to make an ethically minded society, which at times, necessitates the use of force/violence against others to bring justice. I know it is a precarious line to take, but how does one use violence for justice, or should violence be used in the modern world, and if it is plausible to dispense justice with violence behind it, can an Old Testament ethic be applied to justify its use? Of course, he develops this much further, but one last point of inquiry: Levinas speaks of evil on p. 21 and the need to triumph over it. I found this statement fundamental to his reasoning, "And the rabbis gloss 'thousands' as at least two thousand! For at least two thousand generations steadfast love granted to merit is handed down; for four generations iniquity cries out for justice: compassion is thus five hundred times greater than divine severity. Behind this arithmetic of mercy there is moral optimism: the triumph of evil has one time only; nothing is ever lost from the triumph won over evil or from good." In the end, then, I only have more questions, but will end with this- how does one triumph over evil?
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