What is the relationship between theory and practice? What is the relationship between individual responsibility, with limited power, and the obligation of justice?
There is an interweaving variable between theory and practice- that's politics.
Two facts of politics :
a. there are many of us
b. we profoundly disagree
How does theory of justice respond to these two?
A theory should grant us:
a. all of us equal, moral standing (unlike with nature and animals where it might be benevolent but one-sided). Other people need to be treated as independent.
b. i. we might disagree that we should treat each other independently. So everything that follows might be moot including "do unto others.." and that "I have no natural authority over you (not even I'm smarter than you, so I have authority over you)". I have been endowed by god, or birth, or something is becomes valid. This is not a political conception because it's not taking the other person's moral right or difference seriously.
ii. and even if we agree on the previous point, the problem of disagreement becomes an even more challenging problem- To come up with a moral rule that acknowledges our plurality and difference and yet to come up with laws that all of us agree with.
Social Contract Theory from Rousseau to John Rawls.
The realm of politics is the realm of legitimacy and persuasion. It is not a domain of taking a pre-existing truth and imposing it on the world.
The problem of truth in politics is very particular- It is simply that we disagree. So we could go round in circles or undermine the other's legitimacy.
How do we agree that our world stands on equality and moral legitimacy- By acting like that.
"The powerful can do what they want and the weak must suffer what they can"- This is also one form of negotiation. By putting a gun to your head. But for us to feel legitimate, both parties must feel that this is an agreement that they would've freely chosen.
In a modern society, politics is the only bridge between theory and practice- You can't say I'm god's regent or a philosopher king.
Kant- "The only authority we have is the free agreement of reasoning beings"
How do get people included in this circle of politics?- Jews and Palestinians, Hindus-Muslims, racism etc.
One way to think of the advancement of justice- The cause of justice is the cause of giving more and more people equal standing by overcoming arbitrary factors.
Richard Rorty- "Justice is simply the expansion of loyalties".
"Just because of who you are there is no reciprocity of rights" - That is the problem of ethnic exclusion. The harder question is why do we do this, why do we feel like denying some people a fundamental political relationship? Earlier we did this on hierarchy, now we do it on difference. This question cannot be solved by theory of justice and one way to do it is to understand your own psychology. The activity of politics is to bridge the gap between unjust reality and just theory by crafting new relationships between us.
participant: Education entitlement- what if the other knows less, what do we do then?
participant: When you put it this way, you've reduced politicians to managers of principles of justice.
participant: Is fascism a form or politics or is it outside the realm of politics?
participant: Foucault's Discipline and Punish- Problem of justice is the problem of distribution of power.
prof: According to Foucault, all constituencies of human relationship is power through and through. Even this, the fact that we should mutually agree is infact an imposition of a certain demand. "Why should I justify myself for anything?" Also, there is something dangerous and insidious in saying that because you consented to some laws, you are bound by them now. A mad king who said because I have power, in any way, I can take your head off for a crime. As brutal as that is it is atleast clear and out in the open. The problem with us justice folks is that we try to, in sense, rationalise it. Because we agreed to these procedures, now that you have committed a crime, it's not us that are punishing you but yourself.
Duryodhana- "Justice just is the interest of the stronger in which we get the weak to participate to legitimize the chains we bind them in"- Thrasymachus, Nietzsche, Marx, Foucault all say something like this.
Marx- "The nice thing about feudal power is that nobody pretended otherwise"
Even asserting that we are free and equal is a form of intimation
Response 1: Performative contradiction- Even the skeptics don't believe their skepticism because if I exercised power against them, their personal reaction would be a feeling of injustice, not understanding and acceptance of power relationship experientially.
The idea is to expand this feeling to others as well.
Response 2: Practical- We are individual but we also like the goods of social co-operation. To say that just the fact of social co-operation puts us at the mercy of somebody else, although that's true to some extent, it is difficult to imagine a human condition without a social contract.
Either the skeptics can occupy an ultra-anarchist position or it has to occupy a nihilistic position- There are no questions of legitimacy or justice to be asked.
Response 3: More ambitious- Why is the theory of justice good for me outside of utilitarian and pragmatic answers? On the face of it, it is a huge burden; So why? Plato, in the experiment of Gyges's ring, is the only philosopher who took this question seriously. The essential question is: do we act just for it's own sake or because we're afraid of punishment?
a. When I say justice is not good for us, what kind of social contract do I have in mind? The good of a just society is that when you are part of it, you gain more pleasure than when you are 'independent'. Would you be protected by security guards all the time? We act as if injustice pays but we don't acknowledge the hidden costs of insecurity, guilt etc.
Reading recommendation: Plato's description of the tyrant. A tyrant is the paradigm of the unjust person. He's the ultimate anti-political creature, someone who's constantly restless. "When do I have enough power such that.. "- the longing is insatiable. When you look at the life of a tyrant, it's a deeply unhappy life.
What is insatiability indicating- that you don't have a conception of your own good.
Would any of you be able to inhabit a completely Darwinian world? Rhetorically it is brilliant but can you imagine and do you want to live in such a world?
Shanti parv, Kant- Being just is good for you. Living with integrity is to live without integral contradiction.
Simone De Beauvoir- The city and the soul are intimately connected. How you are connected to others gives you a sense of your own being?
Stoicism: Whether or not we can make the world just is a different question. What we have is our mind and soul.
Gandhi: You are the change you want to see in the world. The route through which your transformation changes the world is through exemplarity. At its fundamental articulation, that is what Satyagraha is.
participant: A lot depends on society in which an agent finds himself in. Game theory and incentive structure. What if many are willing to be unjust. Then do I still hold onto my sense of justice?
Sherlock Holmes- "Your grasp of the obvious amazes me"
Bentham: "Any robust theory must begin with equality theory and that we're all self-interested creatures"
Mill: "My worry is that it is not descriptive of people sometimes, but that if everyone believed in this, they would start becoming like that"
Human nature is reflexive in that sense. Often public opinion is a self-fulfilling construct- I act like this because I think this is public opinion and because I act that way, it becomes public opinion.
Gandhi steps out and lifts the pall of fear. It's not that the exemplary hero changes your mind. It's that more people feel empowered because they can now believe that more people are thinking like that.
Levels of difference- You can tolerate someone for having a different view but can you tolerate someone who doesn't believe in the reciprocity principle. When those people come and seek toleration, that difference doesn't have the same moral standing as a political difference.
What I call the liberal contradiction?
Fully ideological politics is an oxymoron- If you go into politics thinking that the only kind of victory that counts it making the world correspond to your ideology, then chances are you won't take differences seriously. Because you believe you have a monopoly over truth. You have to bring integrity which is very different from ideological purity. Ideological purity is the demand that they must conform to you. Ideology is easier, integrity is much harder.
"If people disagree with you, let me elect another people"
Free speech and deplatforming people: Their legal rights to speak cannot be abrogated. For instance, you are not free in a classroom. Our fiduciary responsibility is to make everyone comfortable. Free speech is institutionally contextual. There are some things you can't say in a court of law, doesn't mean the court is against free speech.
Rawls- Basic structure of society.
State is obviously a sight of justice. Should religious organizations be just, should families be just?
One of the big challenges for a liberal society is that we do grant people freedom of association which means people will choose associations (like a gold club) with an internal structure of authority and exclusivity principles.
Morality or justice appropriate to the state- We should treat each other equally, the state should treat each other equally, authority by consent etc.
Should all intermediary sights also uphold these rules?
In the name of associational diversity, we have allowed injustices despite knowing that it would play a consequential role in larger society (gender inequality in a house plays out).
We don't want the state to be found on god's word but my religious organization can be run that way. Is the state crossing its limits when it tries to meddle with it? If it tries to impose the same rules as that of state, then is all talk of diversity just lip-service?
There will be many political parties with each having a different set of rules of membership and thus practising exclusivity of some sort (Eg: if you do not agree with CPI polit bureau diktats, you need to leave). This is not the place to scream democracy.
Is the harm being produced by that intermediate association so large that the state has to step in. And that's tricky because it might not be apparent but so widespread that it has an impact on people as citizens.
Rationalist vs pluralist conception of associational life.
Radhakamal Mukherjee: What keeps a liberal society liberal is that even though no association has liberal power, the sum of it is that the society is liberal because of the fragmentation of power. You are flattening out the wold in a different way.
-Should MPs be allowed to defect?
a. Because they're part of a democracy, they should be democratic.
b. If you don't like the party, leave and join a different party. If you violate the rules of a party, you're out.
Michael Walzer- Spheres of justice
Private home owners not letting their houses to people from a certain religion:
a. My property, my choice
b. But if it's systemic, institutional discrimination (Eg: no Muslims) though is a problem
Exclusion where you think the tenant is not going to pay rent is legitimate.
"People don't give to lawyers because they think lawyers won't vacate and it's hard to defeat them in a court of law"
Bill in Partialiament- Shashi Tharoor- Horizontal discrimination in housing
Q: If my assessment that this person won't pay rent is justified, why not the opinion that says that people from a particular religion are bad tenants? If I can discriminate based on Economic status, why not on religion, gender etc. What is the moral difference?
Libertarians: In things that affect only me, I must be sovereign.
Boundaries of freedom: Defines harm that is non-questionable
Segregation is interesting because its a lot of individual decisions adding up to social discrimination.
If black people move into a neighbourhood, the belief is that property prices will dip. Let's assume that most people are not racist but by being rational, they end up discriminating.
Heroes are tipping points because they tap into the suppressed sentiment that I had assumed that no one would do it, so I hadn't done it.
Heroism is an act of faith but there are lots of incidents where people do heroic acts for their own sake but nothing happens. An act of heroism is not enough in itself.
Why is Irom Sharmila not more of a national hero, why are protests against AFSPA not more in the public consciousness?
And with that I finish the course. What an honour it has been to be in the presence of someone as brilliant as Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta and to share space with such intelligent, articulate, passionate people. Absolutely loved the course.