[hist-analytic] Normativity of 'fair' and 'just':Re: Not Cricket

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Tue Jan 19 07:12:41 EST 2010

  'Very' cuts across the distinction I was trying to draw. I'll only be 

able to respond to one point, one related to Plato. 

I have distinguished two sorts of adjectives. First there are adjectives 

such as 'fuzzy' which are such that if 'x is fuzzier than y' then 'x is 

fuzzy' . Then there is the class exemplified by 'bright' . Terms like 

'bright' are such that from 'x is brighter than y' it does NOT follow 

that 'x is bright' . I pointed out that 'fairer' is like 'bright' and not like 

'fuzzier' since 'x may be fairer than y' although 'x is not fair' . In the 

case of 'bright' I spoke of the comparative in the positive degree, but 

what is really up with this characterization is that 'bright' is a 

normative concept. So where does this leave 'fair' ? 

This grammatical criterion wold suggest that 'fair' is a normative 

concept. Now that may seem obvious to some, but when you 

consider what is included in " normativity " the philosophical 

considerations expand. In any case, it may turn out that contra 

Russell, to take a prominent example, you cannot get away 

with 'better than' ( 'x is better than y' does NOT entail 'x is good' ) 

and avoid some analysis of 'good' (assuming it is a normative 

notion). In other words, the relational expression in the form 

of a comparative relation will not suffice to abandoned the 

categorical conception which I take to be normative. 



In a message dated 1/18/2010 10:25:37 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, Baynesr @comcast.net writes: 

The logic of all this will once clarified 

have consequences for whether justice requires a standard, a standard 

of justice. I don't believe it does, but I might change my mind. Also, justice 

is not a privation of injustice; this figures in. 


Excellent comments. I was reading them, and you do sound like Austin and Grice at the best round of linguistic botanising . I will have to re-analyse each of your utterances one by one. 

For the record, I _think_ Grice opposes "flat" to "variable". I THINK I borrowed the 'flat' versus 'rounded' from, rather E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel. 

This is a book that is familiar with students of literature where I come from. Not that I am one. But I met some, and have socialised with some. 

On one occasion, we were discussing a silly novel, "Sebastian's Pride" by Susan Wilkinson -- I love Wilkinson. And this friend of mine, Graziella Carrozzi , said, "The problem with the novel is that all characters are flat; not a round one". 

It was later I read Grice about 'flat' rationality. 

But of course, the important point here is that you mention about the 'standard' of justice, and in what way injustice figures in. In another of my post, where I comment on your 'calm water' , I make a reference to 'equal' , and in fact, 

it's very good to equate justice WITH equity. 

But back to standards. Elsewhere I have considered at some length what Altham calls, apres Geach , pleonetetic logic. The logic of plurarity . 

Most, many, few, several (or 'severe' as I prefer). 

This may relate if justice is a mass noun, as it were. I have no idea. 

In any case, the analysis that Altham provides for these pleonetic terms (I read an abstract in the well-known Formal semantics of natural language, Cambridge University Press) -- Altham and Tennant , I think) is in terms of 

     a standard 

of justice. 

On the other hand, there's the MESOTES . 

For Aristotle, surely 'just' was the mesotes or golden-proportionally means between the overjust and the injust . 

I don't know. At present I'm obsessed with Grice . 

He has Jack and Jill. 

Jack wants to get some water from a hill, in a bucket. (It's been raining cats and dogs here, and that would be very a dangerous thing to do). 

Jack, brave as he was English, went up the hill. But he fell down and broke his crown. 

Jill commented, before she knew: 

   "Jack is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave" 

So 'brave' is like courage, a virtue.  'brave' would be not the mesotes but the over-achieving agent. Imagine: going up the hill to fetch a pale of water. You need English bravery at its best for that. And then see the consequences: a failed wedding. 

But 'just' ? Why is it that over-achieving judge sounds silly? And also, the fact that a judge is fair should be contingent (never tautological, right?) 

Consider Socrates discussing all these 'popular applications' of 'dikaios' . With Plato saying "very fair", "extremely fair". 

Then come the Judges of Athens and condemn Socrates to commit suicide, i.e. drink the hemlock. 

For Thrasymachus , if he was still alive, -- or if he read it in the news -- must have said, 

   "So I WAN in the end. For this man, Socrates, was 
    preaching us about the absolute value of 'just' 
    but when it came to the grits he had to 
    go by what the judge said was  'just' " 

And what the judge said was "just" is the 'popular application' . -- EVEN if the judge is unpopular. 

Or so said Kelsen . 

  -- but I'll revise your beautiful analysis of 'hot' , 'warm' , and 'just' . 

While we're at it, I'll drop the ref. of a book, 

   HIRSCHBERG , Julia. A theory of scalar implicature .  Routledge . 

She discusses scales versus ranks. 

So, the issue may well be implicatural . 

I know that in my idiolect -- and in South America in general -- (except Brazil, where you sweat what you sweat), you can say, 

    It's warm; indeed it's boiling hot. 

For the scale is 

<hot, warm> 

Similarly, there must be a scale 

<just, unjust> 

but I'll have to analyse. 

For Hirschberg , a rank is a different animal. I don't believe in ranks, but she does. 

If we say that Jack is a captain, we won't say -- she suggests -- that he is a tar. 
But I think that he is a tar if he is a captain. 

If he is a general, we don't say he is captain. It's a lower rank. So the 'scale' here does not seem to hold. It does hold for me, for I define 'general' as 'what a general does' and surely what a 'captain does' is below and included into what a general does. 

Less clear about how this relate to 'just' -- and why Hart wrote so much about all this in his Chair of Jurisprudence. We should find out what name that Chair has. I hope one beginning with "W". 


J. L.   

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