A Passion for Justice (Magill Book Reviews)
Most contemporary books on justice offer intricately worked out accounts of how a society should be organized. Robert Solomon, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, rejects this way of looking at justice, found most notably in the treatises of John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Instead, discussion of justice should start with personal emotions.
As an example, Solomon asks why people emphasize to an inordinate degree making money. People in the United States want to amass more and more money, even though they have no reason to do so. Solomon argues that this phenomenon wrongly makes philosophers think that people are selfish by nature. To the contrary, he suggests, greed comes about through distorted social conditioning. People are not primarily selfish and competitive; they are social beings who care about each other. Solomon supports his contention through examples drawn from ordinary life and from evolutionary theory. He gives a very clear account of the role of reciprocal altruism in biological theory.
Solomon devotes most of his book to a description of particular emotions. Compassion he ranks as probably most essential to justice: It is because of feelings for others that we respond to cases of social need, not because we apply theories that are supposed to be derived by pure reason. Other emotions that Solomon defends include vengeance and sentimentality. Justice is not a purely personal matter, however; it depends...
(The entire section is 384 words.)
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