Chapter

INJURY, INJUSTICE, AND THE INVOLUNTARY IN THE LAWS

MALCOLM SCHOFIELD

in Virtue and Happiness

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646043
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191743368 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646043.003.0007

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

INJURY, INJUSTICE, AND THE INVOLUNTARY IN THE LAWS

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The Laws resiles from Socratic intellectualism. In both Book 5 and Book 9 the Athenian Stranger makes ignorance only one of several psychic conditions that can result in vicious character. And in Book 9 he attributes injustice to the tyranny exercised in the soul by desires and the like, while allowing that behaviour constituting justice in action may nonetheless involve mistakes – i.e. cognitive errors of one sort or another. Yet the Stranger goes out of his way to reassert the Socratic paradox that nobody is unjust or otherwise vicious in character willingly. How then can he talk without inconsistency of voluntary wrongdoing, a category apparently fundamental to any system of criminal law? In tackling this question the Stranger draws a distinction between acts of injustice and acts of injury or harm. Not all injuries are acts of injustice, and where they are involuntary they do not count as ‘involuntary injustices’. There are voluntarily committed injuries that are wrongful. But the injury and the wrongfulness inhabit two different logical spaces. Injury is what one person does to another, and as such it never has any moral dimension. It calls for compensation and reconciliation, and in some cases the purification prescribed by religion. Wrong or injustice is damage people do only to themselves, and that never other than involuntarily. It requires remedial treatment. No logical room is left for the idea that retribution is the essence of punishment.

Keywords: harm; inconsistency; ignorance; injury; injustice; intellectualism; involuntary; justice; law; Laws; paradox; punishment; retribution; Socrates; soul; voluntary; wrong

Chapter.  5107 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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