Author Topic: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice  (Read 2776 times)

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2020, 11:17:59 PM »
Can it reasonably be said that distributive justice "outweighs" commutative justice (in that it corresponds to a higher level of importance, weight, influence, or authority)?   It was denied.

On the contrary, Fr. Joseph Rickabay, S.J., a renowned 19th century classical Thomist from England, wrote in 1888, explaining Thomistic philosophical teaching on justice:  “Distributive justice is the virtue of the king, and of the statesman, of the commander-in-chief, of the judge, and of the public functionary generally…[and] Distributive justice is the Justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe, saying that He is “just in all His works” (Moral Philosophy, 1914 edition, pp. 104-105).

Yet, commutative justice is the virtue of the private individual, the common citizen, in dealing with one another, something we at most would venerate (not adore) in each other on the horizontal level between two equal people.  The individual has created value, but has less status than those in higher authority, i.e. higher status, especially God Himself with infinite value.  It follows then that Distributive justice pertains to a higher authority or level of importance, because it originates ultimately from God who we adore as Governor, downward on the vertical scale, to those in authority over us (kings, judges, etc), who represent God, to those at the most basic, common level of the social hierarchy.  To repeat, "Distributive justice is the Justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe."

Regarding legal justice, it is that general form of justice that directs the individual to the common good, where we must obey the law (Question 58, Article 5).  It is public, and follows a strict adherence to the law/government.  St. Thomas says “It follows therefore that the good of any virtue, whether such virtue direct man in relation to himself, or in relation to certain other individual persons, is referable to the common good, to which justice directs: so that all acts of virtue can pertain to justice, in so far as it directs man to the common good. It is in this sense that justice is called a general virtue.”  But as was quoted earlier, all particulars are ordered to the common good as the end, so that both commutative and distributive justice, just as with legal justice, are ordered to the common good.

However, the common good is at a higher level on the social hierarchy than the private good.  The private good, provided by commutative justice, is ordered upward, to a higher end--the common good, which is distributed as such to each person, not as a private good (like food or shelter), but as something higher (ex's: public order, education, community life).  Since justice always involves persons, and persons are made for the common good, and since distributive justice also provides for the common good for all persons (from Society itself distributed to the individual), it logically follows that distributive justice outweighs commutative justice in so far as it participates in the common good, whereas commutative justice provides more so for private goods. 

Therefore, in conclusion, distributive justice, though perhaps of less weight or authority than legal justice, can be reasonably be said, at least in the sense I have articulated, to have more weight, importance, or authority than commutative justice since it is more directly involved with the common good.

--------------------------------

As an aside, and this is not part of my argument itself, I think James and I might be more in agreement than disagreement.  From St. Thomas’ view that society is a hierarchy, of which James and I both agree (point #1), and from St. Thomas’ writings on justice, rights, the good, and the ideal government, it comes down to how you view/read the flow or interchange between the three justices.  The way I visualize it, based on St. Thomas' teachings, two private people at the bottom of the hierarchy exchange private goods, via commutative justice, but that indirectly directs man upward because he needs more, those goods not provided by the family or household alone (education, market place, law and order, public community life, etc.), which every citizen must aim at through obeying the law (legal justice), but in turn every government and society must distribute proportionately to everyone the common good. 

When each individual receives the common good from society, which they have a right to, by means of distributive justice, then they are able to function at a higher social/moral level than when one individual receives a private good from a second individual.

If you apply this to the original dispute between me and James, in which he claimed the family is “the highest hierarchical level,” it is true the family is prior to society in terms of chronological order and development of a society from individual families, yet society itself is prior to the family ontologically, morally, and metaphysically.  The family is not self-sufficient to provide for itself the "common good" for personal perfection, which society itself provides to each member of the family through distributive justice at a higher level.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 12:44:27 AM by christulsa »
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2020, 03:14:04 PM »
I don't accept Fr. Rickabay as an authority, especially since he wrote from England during the time of the Fabian Socialists.   Even Chesterton wrote for a socialist journal during that time.  But I'm not going to rest on an ad hominem attack.

Getting to his argument (and I'm having trouble discerning his statements from your commentary, but I'll do my best):

Quote
Distributive justice is the Justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe, saying that He is “just in all His works” (Moral Philosophy, 1914 edition, pp. 104-105).

As written, this is heresy.  In Charity I'll chock it up to exuberance on the late priest or lack of context.  Distributive Justice is providing what is owed to the individual from the higher authority.  As written, we adore God's Distributive Justice in which He provides to the individual what He owes them.  This is heresy. And even if, arguendo, this was a valid statement, it proves nothing.

Beyond this one citation, which is heresy, I can't discern where you have cited anything that supports your case.  You quote St. Thomas on Legal Justice, which is a non sequitur.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

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Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2020, 04:16:07 PM »
Sorry, I missed the reply on page 1.  Item 2 of the bet:
Quote
2.  Is distributive justice at a higher hierarchical social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good” which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed)?

Quote
b)  I also agree they have the same subject, the individual, since St. Thomas concludes that justice, without distinction as to kind, "always" "is only in one man towards another" (Question 58 on Justice, article 2:  https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3058.htm#article2).

You have conceded that what you wrote for item 2 was in error.  There is no "higher subject"; for both distributive justice and commutative justice deal with the same subject, the individual, which you now admit.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2020, 07:32:51 PM »
Conclusion:  I’ll answer James’ additional objections, rest my case, and let Max decide the outcome.  Pardon it all being in one box.

I don't accept Fr. Rickabay as an authority, especially since he wrote from England during the time of the Fabian Socialists.   Even Chesterton wrote for a socialist journal during that time.  But I'm not going to rest on an ad hominem attack.
Quote

a) I defer to Max to decide if he is an authority.  Here are Rickabay’s credentials:

https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rickaby-joseph

b)  According to that standard, John Henry Newman wouldn’t be an academic authority either.  One of his last works was written in 1885 in England, just 3 years before Rickabay wrote the book as referenced.


Quote
Distributive justice is the Justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe, saying that He is “just in all His works” (Moral Philosophy, 1914 edition, pp. 104-105).

As written, this is heresy.

Not according to the Church (from his Moral Philosophy, 1905 edition):

Nihil Obstat: Josephus Keating, S.J.
Impri Potest:  Joannes H. Wright, S.J. Praep. Prov. Angliae
Nihil Obstate:  C. Schut, D.D. Censor deputatus
Imprimatur:  EDM. CAN. Surmont Vie Gen.


Sorry, I missed the reply on page 1.  Item 2 of the bet:
Quote
2.  Is distributive justice at a higher hierarchical social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good” which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed)?

Quote
b)  I also agree they have the same subject, the individual, since St. Thomas concludes that justice, without distinction as to kind, "always" "is only in one man towards another" (Question 58 on Justice, article 2:  https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3058.htm#article2).

You have conceded that what you wrote for item 2 was in error.  There is no "higher subject"; for both distributive justice and commutative justice deal with the same subject, the individual, which you now admit.

You are assuming that your conclusion is self-evident, without actually demonstrating it.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 07:54:25 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2020, 12:21:45 PM »
I get to make my case, and then you can respond to that.  And then Max can decide.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2020, 01:14:38 PM »
I get to make my case, and then you can respond to that.  And then Max can decide.

Fair enough.  To be clear, your case as already stated is not a positive argument for an actual position, but simply the negative position that I can't/haven't adequately backed up the statement being debated (in the OP), from St. Thomas' writings.  I've already made two rounds of arguments, and you argued accordingly to try and show that I did not adequately meet the conditions of the debate.  Since I'm not going to frame a third argument, you would have to show that in the first two arguments I did not adequately make my case, which you already had the opportunity to do.  But if you need a third round to frame an argument yourself, that seems fair since I did originally mention going three rounds.  Your argument would have to prove that I have not met the terms of the debate, from what is already written. 
« Last Edit: December 12, 2020, 01:27:08 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #21 on: December 13, 2020, 07:54:16 PM »
I'll make a closing argument and you'll get the last word.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #22 on: December 13, 2020, 08:14:26 PM »
That's ok.   I'll let your closing argument rest on its own merits, or lack thereof, and let Max decide.  I've rested my case.
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2020, 09:57:16 PM »
Might be a day or two.  Later.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline Maximilian

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #24 on: December 13, 2020, 10:50:04 PM »
Might be a day or two.  Later.

Back in high school we had 4 debates every Saturday morning.
 
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Offline Jacob

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #25 on: December 14, 2020, 01:28:13 PM »
Might be a day or two.  Later.

Back in high school we had 4 debates every Saturday morning.

Amen.  I miss Debate.
“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
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Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2020, 01:37:04 PM »
Closing arguments:

I want to start by stating what this debate was NOT about.  It is not about the definition of Commutative and Social Justice.  It is not about aristocrats in an aristocracy justly receiving a larger allotment of public goods and services  under Distributive Justice due to their greater responsibilities.  It is not about the requirement for us to comply with valid State authority under Legal/General Justice or why this is so.  None of this is the subject of the debate.

The subject of the debate: Distributive Justice carries more weight than Commutative Justice.  Chris has not provided anything from the Church to back up this claim.  All of the St. Thomas quotes dealt with the subjects I listed above which are NOT in debate.  He had one quote from a priest's (1914) book that touches on the matter in that it mentions Distributive Justice, but that was the extent of it -- it mentions Distributive Justice.  And even that quote is very problematic, bordering on heresy since Distributive Justice requires the higher authority to give what it owes to the individual, and God owes us nothing.  Yes we adore the General Justice of God, in that God is Simple and thus we adore all that is God.  However I believe it is more correct to say we fear the Justice of God, which is why we wash in the Blood of Christ and flee to the confessional.

I also don't even know what it would mean for Distributive Justice in general having "more weight" than Commutative Justice.  This is only so in particular cases (Obama awarding $500MM to his buddies in Solyndra comes to mind).  Is this a Utilitarian argument?  I hope not, as that would be heresy.  Does it mean the State is free in its pursuits of Distributive Justice to commit Injustice, that is, offend Commutative Justice?  Again, it can't mean that.

Finally, I'd like to state how the Church views the topic.  And that is sphere's of authority.  The Church, State, Family, and Individual have rights which can't be infringed.  Under Legal Justice there is a right of the State to get you to comply with valid edicts.  But there is a limit.  Pope Leo does an excellent job in stating this (and again this is regards to Legal Justice):
Quote
14. The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself.
  And so we see that there are sphere's of authority with set limits.  As an example of the limits, the State has zero authority to force children into public school and a Catholic has zero moral obligation to comply under the arguments of Justice.

I close an example where it is obviously NOT the case where Distributive Justice carries more weight than Commutative Justice.  Let us suppose the State stiffs me on my $1,200 Trump Bucks.  I contact them and point it out.  The State replies that I am correct, however the program is closed, so no Trump Bucks for me.  At the same time I find out that a customer is stiffing me on a $100,000 invoice.  In this case the offense against Commutative Justice outweights the offense against Distributive Justice by a factor of around 100.

I thank Chris for an enjoyable debate.  And with that I close.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline Maximilian

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #27 on: December 19, 2020, 01:18:47 PM »
Chris wins the debate.

1. I said up front that Chris' initial presentation was convincing as a prima facie argument, and I said that means that James now has to convince me otherwise.

2. James did not take that seriously, and his initial response was condescending and ineffective.

3. In his last post, however, James did make a substantive argument. I find, however, that it is inadequate to rebut Chris' position.

Therefore, I find that distributive justice is of a higher order than commutative justice.

Additional observations:

1. Chris' initial argument was interesting, informative, well-reasoned and well presented.
   a. It is a mistake, however, to bring in a matter of current controversy like the quarantine when you are still at the stage of establishing your fundamental principles. If the principles you are trying to demonstrate date back 800 years, then today's headlines cannot be particularly relevant to those principles. You could instead complete the process of demonstrating your philosophical principles, and then later add a subsequent section titled "How to apply these principles to today's controversy."

2. It appears that arguing on the internet can tend to inculcate bad habits. In this debate, Chris was able to eschew any bad habits such as led to his recent ban, and to argue clearly and logically without any personal attacks, insults, etc. Often it's the case that what you leave out is as important as what you put in.

3. Rhetorical questions do not constitute arguments. This is a mistake which is ubiquitous today in the media, as well as on internet fora. State your own case directly, clearly and forcefully. Wisecracks aimed at the other side do not carry any weight, instead they tend to demean your own position.

Justice

I have been thinking about Justice a lot lately, and this debate has been very helpful in forming my views and adding information that I lacked.

Chris did the better job arguing, but I believe he also had the advantage of starting from a position that is fundamentally correct.

In his final argument, James made the valid point that there are limits to functions of distributive justice within the various spheres of society. This is an important consideration, but it does not disprove the principle that distributive justice is of a higher order.

James is concerned about the intrusion of distributive justice into the family. This is a valid concern, however, the family is also a society. Distributive justice functions within the family as well as outside. The family too must balance the claims of the common good versus individual rights.

The family, however, is an imperfect society, meaning that it cannot achieve its purposes by itself, rather only by cooperating with other families. Therefore the family must practice distributive justice within its own small society, but it must also participate in the larger society. Yes, it's true that there are rules and limits as to how far the larger society can go when intruding into the rights of the family, nevertheless, that process by which the family participates in the distributive justice of the larger society is essential and irreplaceable for the family to achieve its purposes of life and salvation.

St. James says, "All good gifts and all best gifts come from above." Therefore our most important goods must come to us through distributive justice.

This is seen most clearly in the example of the Church, which is itself a society. In a properly ordered society, the Church is the central and most important smaller society within the larger all-inclusive society. The Church distributes to its members the gifts of grace through the sacraments. There is no way for the individual or for the smaller society of the family to replace this essential function through commutative justice.

Jesus makes it clear that I must not defraud my neighbor if I want to go to heaven. Therefore, commutative justice is essential. Nevertheless, the distributive justice by which the gifts of heaven are brought down to earth so that I may participate in them is of a higher order.
 
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Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #28 on: December 20, 2020, 05:55:01 PM »
Per the mutually agreed upon rules Chris won the debate.  I'll procure the beer and make arrangements for delivery, which will be after Christmas.

"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline andy

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This is my short take on this debate. TLDR This all became somewhat a semantic battle. Almost to the point of rejecting a common meaning of certain terms or redefining them. I believe we should stick to the original meaning as much as possible.

Also, is the objective of a debate to win (a 6pack of beer)? As fr. Hesse says (and if someone is interested I offer to dig up a specific quote), that should not be an objective here. The only real benefit is that we learn the Truth. In other words, I do not care who wins or loses.

In any case, I loved that attempt and have learned a lot of new things and diving into Q61 https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3061.htm  was worth the time. God bless you!

And now some details:

James:

  - I will state it as short as his reasoning: super concise and precise but ultimately failed to form his own opinion. I still have not learned from James what a catholic should think about the subject. In his own words "I also don't even know what it would mean for Distributive Justice in general having "more weight" than Commutative Justice."

Chris:

Chris spends more time telling us what he will do than actually doing. It is super annoying to be told at every corner of a debate what he is going to do and then not deliver. Here are verbatim quotes:
“I'm saying that distributive justice outweighs commutative justice, and corresponding rights, according to classical Thomistic philosophical doctrine, answering the OP.  “

“I’ll argue distributive justice outweighs commutative justice”

“And we can cite authoritative Thomists in “ - no citation

“based on the citation I gave” - no citation

“I will show one is superior. “

“I will argue in the affirmative. “

“I will back up this position primarily from not just one”

“I may also reference Aristotle as a tertiary source,”

“I will maintain reference primarily to what St. Thomas says”

“I will also follow the standards of logical argumentation, and avoid all fallacies.”

“I will show that “

“My argument will be based on three questions.”

“I’ll show that”

“I’ll show that”

“I’ll show that since”

“I’ll show that I can back up the statement with not just one, as stipulated, but multiple references from St. Thomas.”

“which I will show”

“To prove my position”

“yet I will actually back it up with not only one, but several citations from St. Thomas.“

“In this first part of my argument then, I will show both that”

“I will begin with “

“James can give a rebuttal, and then I will respond to his rebuttal in part 2”

“Intro:  I'm going to answer James' objections, make a second argument”

“I would suggest Max decide”

“I simply have to show”

“I simply have to back it up …but I will back it up  … I have already given” in one freaking sentence

“I clearly stated”


Chris's main line of thinking seems to rely exclusively on this transition: "as a part to the whole -> the whole depends on parts or parts depend on the whole" TO “It is self-evident that for St. Thomas the whole (or the community) itself is greater in value”.  The dependency is a completely different relationship than valuation, hence such a transformation is not just.


Judge

It seems that Max's main criteria was a quality of a presentation, volume and perception that someone is/is-not engaged, order of arguments and other secondary features of a debate. I do not buy that. The judge failed to highlight specific winning arguments and re emphasize the main intellectual obstacle in the debate, ergo position himself above both parties and demonstrate a clear thinking. I guess that it is not an easy topic though.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2021, 11:07:36 PM by andy »