Justice: Consequence and Form
We live in a society of conflict. There have been no governments, nor systems, nor rule, nor markets that have sought to make everyone equal in the eyes of everyone. In each case, there was always some form of someone being bettered at the expense of another. Instead of trying to avoid this reality, we must embrace it and make it our own. Justice is helping friends and harming enemies as justice is not a moral stance between right [friends] and wrong [enemies], but is, in fact, treating beneficial action with beneficial action and detrimental action with detrimental action. In doing so, justice helps refine the forms of the friend and the enemy in the life of the just man; making each further choice an easier step towards absolute choices in life.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and Polemarchus defined friends and enemies as, “The man who seems to be, and is, good, is a friend . . . while the man who seems good, and is not, seems to be but is not a friend. And we’ll take the same position about the enemy” (Plato, 334e10-335a2). I would define it thusly: the man who seems to be, and is, good to us, is a friend, while the man who seems good, and is not, to us, is not a friend. The same definition can be made for the enemy. Value judgments on whether someone is good or bad have always been viewed through the lens of the man making the statement. There are no actions that are inherently evil in themselves, but it is the motive of the man behind the action that dictates its value. To harm a friend for one’s own gain is clearly bad, while harming an enemy is a simple fact of dealings in life. One cannot be expected to relinquish his work and life to another who is out to harm him as well. To be a just man, you need not divine who is inherently good or bad, but simply respond in kind to the actions brought against you.
To illustrate the irrelevancy of the matter in terms of morality, let us look at two men working the same field. If a farmer, a grower of grains and vegetables, and a shepherd are forced to use the same field, each must, to the best of their ability, excel in their respective arts: the farmer must care for his crops and the shepherd must care for his sheep. This means that they will be forced to be at odds as the farmer will have to deter the work of the shepherd to save his crops while the shepherd must deter the work of the farmer to save his livestock. Neither are worse than the other, but are simply doing their respective work. One can go on to surmise if two men have friends in contract who are at odds, the men will help their friend, at the expense of the opposing partner. No one would fault the man for helping his friend, but in doing so, he has created an enemy in the opposing partner. Neither person is any less just because of this, but would fulfill justice by helping their friends and harming their enemies.
Moreover, by harming the enemy, you compel that person to become more hostile towards you, thus making him a better enemy. Because friends and enemies are not inherently moral or immoral, you would want to know who will treat you well and who will treat you ill, despite their intentions. In a world in pursuit of forms, you are helping create the form of the enemy and, in the converse situation, the form of the friend. By pursuing justice, you are refining the world around you to better imitate Plato’s world of forms (Plato, 584b12-584c7). With every just choice you make, you make for yourself an easier and more absolute just choice the next time you are faced with a decision towards friends and enemies.
The human being is given the ability to be many things at once: friend, artist, poet, enemy – the entire time being universally just to his world at large. Through helping friends and harming enemies, justice deals out the consequence for every action done to another and furthers the forms of the friend and enemy in life. In this fashion, the just man does unto others what is done to him.